Since then, he has held 44 campaign-like events in 17 states, according to a CBS News count, and raised millions of dollars for "Right to Rise," the name of both his leadership PAC and super PAC. But only now has Bush officially decided that he will jump into the race.
Bush will enter the race with an announcement that emphasizes three themes from his experience as governor, his campaign says. Voters can expect to hear Bush talk about his ability to fix America's problems because he has the experience to do it (having served as Florida governor); that he is the kind of leader who with the "heart to help people rise up;" and that his candidacy will be "speaking to everyone without flinching."
Another video that will play at the launch touts specific issues Bush worked on as Florida governor.
"We grew our economy, and led the nation in job growth. Defended life and protected women from domestic violence. Eliminated waste and balanced budgets. Reformed schools and gave every child an opportunity. We led, we reformed, we got results," Bush says in the video. "That's what's missing from Washington. The D.C. crowd talks about what's wrong with America. I see what's right. They talk about problems. I see solutions...I see a great country on the verge of its greatest century, and I'm ready to lead."
His presumed entry to the race and fundraising prowess did not have the effect of clearing the rest of the GOP field: Ten other candidates have already entered the race and another four more could jump in after Bush does. And while Bush has locked down the support of many of the GOP's big donors and staff members, he has plenty of competition in the early polls from politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Here are five things to know about Jeb Bush:
He is the early frontrunner among the GOP establishment: With a father and a brother who served in the White House, Bush has immediate name recognition and a fundraising network unmatched by any of the other Republican candidates.
At first, it seemed like that would make Bush a daunting figure in the race. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, ended an early flirtation with a third presidential bid that would have put him in competition for donors with Bush. And Right to Rise, Bush's super PAC, was apparently so flush with donations earlier this year that officials had to cap contributions at $1 million per person. An official with Right to Rise told CBS News that Bush told a group of about 350 donors to the super PAC in April that they had raised more money in the first 100 days of existence than other GOP operation in recent memory.
With Romney out, Bush seemed like the most viable option for big Republican donors and party elders. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was sought after as a presidential candidate in 2012, is still mulling whether the damage from the Bridgegate scandal is fatal to his candidacy. And some candidates, like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee aren't expected to reach as broad a swath of voters as Bush.
But there are signs that his front-runner status may be slipping. Even though Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, got some of his political education from Bush, the younger Floridian decided not to put his own presidential ambitions on hold and is doing well in the polls. Walker, the Wisconsin governor, has proven popular on the early-state speaking circuit and his poll numbers have also been strong. Although his fundraising has been prodigious, recent reports say the Right to Rise super PAC may not reach its goal of raising more than $100 million by the end of June.
Forty-six percent of Republican voters told CBS News in a survey last month that they'd consider supporting Bush for the party's 2016 presidential nomination. Twenty-three percent said they would not consider it. Those numbers are slightly down from a January poll that found 50 percent of Republicans wanted like to see former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the campaign trail. On the other hand, 27 percent of voters in that poll said they wouldn't consider voting for Bush, versus 23 percent in the more recent poll.
While in many big ways Bush's family history is an asset, it has its drawbacks. Bush spent several days in May stumbling on questions about whether he would have gone through with the 2003 invasion of Iraq given what is known today (about the presence of weapons of mass destruction). After initially answering yes, he ultimately switched his position to say he would not have gone into the country.
He was once considered a model conservative.... Bush's own political career began in the early 1980s, when he was elected to the Miami Dade County Republican Party. He later served as Florida's secretary of commerce in 1987. Bush made his first bid for the governor's mansion in 1994, calling himself a "head-banging conservative," but narrowly lost to the sitting Democratic governor, Lawton Chiles. In 1998, Bush ran again and was elected.
During his two terms as governor he was credited with overhauling the state's education system and sharply reducing the state's tax burden. He signed legislation partnering the state with the federal government to restore the Everglades, and he also pushed through an overhaul of the state's medical liability laws. His reelection in 2002 made him the first Republican to win a second term as governor in the history of Florida.
"Jeb was a very popular governor, he was a very successful governor," said Florida-based strategist Rick Wilson told CBS News during an interview in January. "He really, at the time, set a national model for how a conservative legislative path could be carved in a state...that had been controlled largely by Democrats for decades."
...but now some of the GOP base takes issue with his positions on immigration and education: Last year, Bush said that the eventual Republican nominee must be prepared "to lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles."
"We don't have to make a point any more as Republicans," he said. "We have to actually show that we can, in an adult-like way, we can govern, lead."
For Bush, that will mean effectively defending his more moderate positions on immigration and his support for the Common Core School Standards.
Bush has spent his years since leaving the Florida governor's mansion working on education reform issues and has become a champion for the Common Core school standards. Many other Republican politicians, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, initially embraced the standards before running in the opposite direction once it became clear that many in the conservative base view the standards as a federal overreach and threat to parental rights. Even Christie, one of the last potential candidates on the GOP side to buck the base and support the standards, walked away last month. Bush is now the only top-tier candidate supporting Common Core.
"Voters are very closely viewing it as a litmus test," Tamara Scott, a policy adviser and lobbyist with the FAMiLY LEADER, an Iowa-based social conservatives' group, told CBS News in February. "[W]hen you take parents out of the picture, which is what Common Core will do, most people find that offensive."
Bush remains undeterred. "In my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms. For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher, be bolder, raise standards and ask more of our students and the system," he said during a speech last November.
Bush has been equally defiant on the immigration issue, where he is one of the few GOP contenders willing to back a path to legal status for those in the U.S. illegally. He has become far more moderate since his failed 1994 gubernatorial campaign when he said the government should start deporting people who were in the U.S. illegally.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference earlier this year, Bush - who drew boos when Fox News' Sean Hannity brought up his immigration status - said, "There is no plan to deport 11 million people."
"We should give them a path for legal status where they work, they don't get government benefits, where they learn English," he said.
He has maximized his fundraising abilities by waiting a long time to declare his candidacy: Part of Bush's late entry into the presidential race was almost certainly a strategic decision to maximize his ability to raise money. Because he has not been an official candidate until now, he was allowed to coordinate with his super PAC - and ask donors for more than the limit of $2,700 per donor per election he would have to respect as a candidate.
"What he's trying to do is maximize his money and maximize the amount of money he can take in from individual contributors," Lawrence Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center and a former FEC general counsel, told CBS News earlier this year. It was a strategy that no other candidate had attempted, and Noble predicted that unless the Federal Election Committee (FEC) objected, other candidates would eventually try the same thing.
The FEC did not object. But watchdog groups have: Bush - along with fellow Republicans Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum Walker, as well as former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat - was the subject of complaints filed by the Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21.
"These 2016 presidential contenders must take the American people for fools--flying repeatedly to Iowa and New Hampshire to meet with party leaders and voters, hiring campaign staff, and raising millions of dollars from deep-pocketed mega donors, all the while denying that they are even 'testing the waters' of a presidential campaign," said Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel. "But...the candidate contribution limits kick in as soon as a person begins raising and spending money to determine whether they're going to run for office."
Bush said on "Face the Nation" last month that he would "never" violate campaign finance laws and promised "no coordination at all" with the super PAC if he runs. So far, the FEC seems to agree.
He has deep ties to the Latino community: There are two Republican candidates born of Cuban heritage - Rubio and Cruz - but Bush's claim to the hearts and minds of Latino voters is arguably just as strong. Bush, unlike Cruz, is a fluent Spanish speaker and was called Florida's "first Cuban-American governor" by former Sen. Mel Martinez for his work on Miami's powerful Cuban community.
Bush's strong ties to the Latino community were established long before he ever set foot in the governor's office. He met his wife, Columba Garnica de Gallo, in 1971 when he traveled to León, Mexico as a high school student. He majored in Latin American studies when he attended University of Texas (a school that put him geographically closer to Gallo before they married) and the two lived in Caracas, Venezuela for two years when Bush worked at the Texas Commerce Bank. It was his wife's family that brought Bush to Miami, which would become his adopted home. He often speaks Spanish both at home and in public. He even converted to Catholicism, his wife's religion.
"Jeb is Cuban. He's Nicaraguan. He's Venezuelan," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, one of three Cuban-American Republicans from Miami in Congress, told the Miami Herald. "The stamp of South Florida is in his DNA."
On one occasion, he may have taken his adopted identity too much to heart. The New York Times reported in April that Bush identified himself as "Hispanic" on a 2009 voter-registration application obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department.
He later joked about it on Twitter with his son, George P. Bush.
CBS News' Steve Chaggaris and Jake Miller contributed to this report.
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