On Tuesday morning, former Florida governor Jeb Bush announced the formation of a new Political Action Committee that looks like a natural complement to his "active exploration" of a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. On the issues, Bush's positions look a whole lot like his older brother's.
He's a staunch conservative on many economic and domestic issues, as well as foreign policy, while supporting various reform proposals on immigration and education. But during the eight years Bush has been out of politics, his party has changed — and those latter two issues look likely to pose problems for him in the primaries.
1) Jeb supports immigration reform, but has wavered on a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants
Jeb Bush said in December that if he could only do two things as president, one would be fixing the US immigration system. But his positions on what that fix should entail have frequently changed, as this rundown from Politifact's Molly Moorhead shows.
In 2012, Bush contrasted himself with the rest of his party on the issue, telling Charlie Rose that he supported a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants: "You have to deal with this issue. You can't ignore it. And so, either a path to citizenship, which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives; Or a path to legalization, a path to residency of some kind."
By the end of that year, though, he had changed his position. He wrote in a book that "a path to permanent legal resident status" for unauthorized immigrants "should not lead to citizenship," calling that "an undeserving reward for conduct that we cannot afford to encourage."
Then, however, by the time the book came out in early 2013 — when the Senate was debating an immigration reform proposal including a path to citizenship — Bush softened his position again. If "you can craft that in law where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn't an incentive for people to come illegally, I'm for it," he said on MSNBC. He still expressed some skepticism, though, saying "I don't see how you do it."
However, Bush has been deliberately using kinder rhetoric about unauthorized immigrants than some other Republicans. In an April 2014 speech, he said that unauthorized immigrants "broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love... It shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."
He's criticized President Obama's executive actions on immigration and called them "a stretch" of presidential powers, but reportedly told a group of GOP officials that the party shouldn't have a standoff over Obama's executive actions on immigration, and should instead pass several "sensible" reform bills next year.
2) Jeb's an economic conservative, but might be willing to compromise
According to Adam Smith, political editor of the Tampa Bay Times, Bush governed in Florida as a "conservative activist" who "relished pushing the envelope on policy." Smith writes:
Jeb Bush, a moderate squish? The governor who treated trial lawyers and teachers union leaders as enemies of the state? Who stripped job protections from civil servants? Who slashed taxes? Whose passion for privatization included enacting the nation's first statewide private school voucher program and extended to privatizing health care for the poor, prisons and child protection services? ... He fought for reduced entitlement spending and, deriding nanny-state impulses, repealed the helmet law for motorcyclists in Florida and vetoed a GOP-backed bill requiring booster seats for kids in cars.
Yet on major federal budget and tax issues, Bush has positioned himself to the left of his party.
In 2011, when Republican candidates in the 2012 presidential primary if they would accept a deal that included ten dollars in spending cuts for every one dollar in tax increases, not a single candidate would. But Bush said he'd be on board. "If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we're going to have $10 in spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement -- put me in, coach," he said in 2012. This puts him afoul of Republican antitax activist Grover Norquist; Bush refuses to sign Norquist's famous pledgefor no new taxes
A spokesperson for Bush told Politico's Brian Faler in October that the former governor "doesn't support raising taxes" and cut them repeatedly in Florida, but that he also "doesn't support doing nothing about the massive national debt." He's also criticized Obamacare, calling it "flawed to its core," but says Republicans need to have an alternative to it.
3) Jeb's an education reformer
Education reform was one of Bush's top issues during his governorship and afterwards. He's a supporter of testing requirements, raising accountability standards, and expanding school choice, and implemented those proposals in Florida. After leaving politics, he founded a nonprofit, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, to promote those views across the country. "Choice is at the center of our reform efforts," Bush said in a recent speech, and also mentioned "high standards," "rigorous high-quality assessments," and "accountability for school leaders."
Particularly, Bush supports the Common Core standards, which have become controversial across the country, especially among Republicans. In a recent speech, Bush defended the Common Core, saying, "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."
These positions used to be entirely within the GOP mainstream, but the party has been becoming more and more critical of the Common Core, and even seem to be moving away from annual testing requirements.
4) He's a social conservative
Like his brother, Jeb Bush holds socially conservative views on abortion, gay rights, and gun control. Scott Conroy of RealClearPolitics wrote in April that, as a result, "prominent social conservatives" were urging Bush to run for the White House. Conroy went on:
"During his governorship, Bush asserted himself frequently on hot-button issues that highlighted his staunch social conservatism, particularly in opposing embryonic stem cell research and abortion rights. For example, he signed into law a parental notification measure for teenage girls considering abortion and supported a controversial "choose life" specialty license plate, the proceeds from which benefited organizations serving pregnant women who planned to put their babies up for adoption."
Bush was governor of Florida during the controversy over Terri Schiavo, and fought to keep her alive via feeding tube despite her husband's wishes and court orders that the tube be removed. He opposes same-sex marriage, but argued in 2013 that the issue should be decided at the state level. Bush also has a conservative record on gun rights, having signed Florida's first-in-the-nation "Stand Your Ground" bill into law in 2005.
Unlike his older brother, Jeb Bush is a Catholic, having converted to his wife's faith in 1995.
5) He's a foreign policy interventionist
While the GOP has been somewhat divided on whether to continue embracing interventionism in foreign policy, Bush has shown no such qualms. "Everything Bush has said publicly on [foreign policy] confirms that he agrees with his party's hard-liners on most issues," writes Daniel Larison.
In a recent speech, Bush said the US has "retrenched" under Obama. According to the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo, he "sounded notes of concerns with nearly every quarter of the world: Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel," and argued that the US needed to lead.
Specifically, Bush criticized Obama for issuing a red line against Syria and then not attacking the country when it used chemical weapons, saying, "The iron rule of superpower deterrent is 'Mean it when you say it.' And it has been broken by this president."
Bush also also said that instead of lifting the US trade and travel embargo on Cuba, "we should consider strengthening it" — not a surprise considering his close connections to Florida's Cuban-American community.