Jeb Bush has a tricky day ahead of him. The soon-to-be-official candidate will roll out his campaign Monday to an increasingly skeptical press corps and a public that is queasy about reifying a political dynasty. Every presidential announcement has high stakes, but for Bush, the stakes are in the stratosphere. And he’ll get by the way he always has: with a little help from his friends.
Bush has drawn nigh-unmitigated heat over a few issues: the relationship between his campaign and his super PAC, comments he made on Fox News about the wisdom of the Iraq War to go forward in Florida. So perhaps more than any of the 2016 candidates who announced their ambitions before him, Bush is playing defense. And he won’t be playing defense alone.
Bush’s trip to Orlando, Florida, two weeks ago highlighted just how effective his support network is. The candidate traveled there to speak at an invitation-only event convened by Gov. Rick Scott to allow 2016 contenders to speak to top business leaders and donors. Bush—by far—got the warmest welcome, drawing multiple standing ovations. And at least one billionaire afterward attended a closed-door gathering where the governor reacquainted himself with some of his most powerful supporters and answered questions off the record. While the national media scoffed at his struggles to answer a question on Iraq, the Floridians who made him a star sounded as loyal as ever.
George LeMieux, a former senator from the Sunshine State, called Bush the George Washington of Florida politics, crediting him with the growth and health of the state’s Republican Party. LeMieux said Republicans’ unusual success in Florida is due in part to Bush’s devotion to the party there. And Republicans in the state have been remarkably effective. Although Florida is as purple as states come and voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, Republicans control all the statewide elected offices except one and also hold both chambers of the legislature. The state has long incubated national conservative stars, and if Bush wins the GOP nomination in 2016, that victory will be due in large part to the many close and lucrative relationships he has there.
So his campaign announcement will give him a chance to demonstrate the extent of that support. In the past, his media-savvy allies have taken great care to choreograph the former governor’s public appearances; at CPACearlier this year, they arranged for buses to pick up Bush supporters on K Street and in Georgetown and take them to the event, so he would get a warmer welcome than he would have otherwise. His campaign announcement is another chance to persuade ambivalent would-be supporters and donors that he can gin up excitement.
After he pops America the question, he’ll hit the road. A Jeb 2016 media advisory says he will talk in New Hampshire about a plan to create 19 million new jobs, and in South Carolina about “how we can ensure America is a leader in the world again.” He will also spend time in Iowa and Nevada.
The soon-to-be-official candidate spoke with The Washington Post in advance of the rollout, and his comments provided some insight into how he may approach the announcement.
“Personally, I’m an introvert,” Bush told the paper. “I’m not, like, a gregarious guy, who needs the energy of a crowd to make me feel fulfilled. I’d rather read a 20-page policy brief.”
Monday’s rollout is a chance to show if he can make his wonky introvertedness an asset. His allies believe he can. His polls suggest it’s doable. By the end of the day, we’ll know more.