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Jeb Bush launches White House bid

Published 16/06/2015

Jeb Bush joins the race for US president (AP)
Jeb Bush joins the race for US president (AP)

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has set up another potential Bush-Clinton presidential race, launching a White House bid with a vow to win the Republican nomination on his own merits and stay true to his beliefs.

Mr Bush, the son of former president George HW Bush and brother of George W Bush, is unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in a large Republican field of 11 major candidates that lacks a true front-runner.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and Ohio governor John Kasich are among those still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.

For Mr Bush, the 2016 Republican contest will test both his vision of conservatism and his ability to distance himself from family.

"Not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family, or family narrative. It's nobody's turn," he said, confronting critics who suggest he simply seeks to inherit the office already held by his father and brother.

"It's everybody's test, and it's wide open - exactly as a contest for president should be."

Neither his father nor his brother was present at the announcement. The family was represented instead by Jeb Bush's mother and former first lady Barbara Bush, who once said that the country did not need yet another Bush as president, and by his son George P Bush, the recently-elected Texas land commissioner.

Before the event, the Bush campaign came out with a new logo - Jeb! - that conspicuously leaves out the Bush surname.

Opening his campaign at a rally near his south Florida home at Miami Dade College, Mr Bush sought to turn the prime argument against his candidacy on its head, casting himself as the true Washington outsider while lashing out at competitors in both parties as being part of the problem.

"We are not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing the people who either helped create it or have proven incapable of fixing it," he said.

That was an indirect but unmistakable swipe at Republican presidential rivals in the Senate. Among them are his political protege, Florida senator Marco Rubio, as well as senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Mr Paul said there was "Bush-Clinton fatigue" in America. "I think some people have had enough Bushes and enough Clintons," he said.

Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the clear favourite in the Democratic contest, with the possibility of another Bush-Clinton race following her husband Bill Clinton's victory over George HW Bush in 1992.

Jeb Bush joins the race in progress in some ways in a commanding position, in part because of his family connections and support from the party establishment that has enabled him to raise what may be a record amount of money at this stage to support his candidacy.

But on other measures, early public opinion polls among them, he has yet to break out, particularly in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

In the past six months he has made it clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign to come, even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the conservative base of the party that plays an outsized role in Republican primaries.

Mark Meckler, a leader of the ultra-conservative tea party movement, said Mr Bush's positions on education and immigration were "a non-starter with many conservatives".

Yet a defiant Mr Bush has showed little willingness to placate his party's right wing. Mr Bush, whose wife is Mexican-born, addressed the packed college arena in English and Spanish, an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience.

He aimed his latest message at the broader swathe of the electorate that will ultimately decide the November 2016 election. Minority voters, in particular, have fuelled Democratic victories in the last two presidential polls.

He was not planning to address immigration, but protesters left him little choice. Just as he introduced his mother, a group of several people removed their outer shirts, revealing yellow T-shirts that spelled out "Legal status is not enough".

Mr Bush responded by departing from his prepared remarks. "Just so that our friends know, the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform, so that that will be solved - not by executive order," he said.

He prefers creating a path to legal status for the millions of immigrants now living in the country illegally as part of an overhaul, rather than a path to US citizenship as Mrs Clinton has advocated.

Mrs Clinton, meanwhile, hit back at criticism that her personal wealth undermines a populist campaign message focused on the economic problems of everyday Americans, saying her family fortune was "secondary" to most voters.

"I don't think Americans are against success," she said in Concord, New Hampshire. "Those of us who do have opportunities ought to be doing more to help other people do the same."

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, have made hundreds of millions of dollars since leaving the White House from paid speeches - a fortune that even she has struggled to explain.

Last year, she stumbled into a storm of political criticism after saying her family was "dead broke" at the end of her husband's second term. Though in deep debt due to legal fees from various controversies, Bill Clinton quickly moved the couple into the top 1% with book sales and speaking fees while his wife served as a US senator and secretary of state.

Last month, the couple reported that they had earned more than 30 million dollars (£19.3m) in speaking fees and book royalties since January 2014.

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