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Jeb Bush Officially Enters Republican Field For President


He's been raising money, hiring staff and campaigning for months. Well, today, Jeb Bush finally made it official. He is now a candidate for president.


JEB BUSH: So here's what it comes down to. Our country's on a very bad course, and the question is, what are we going to do about it? The question for me...


BUSH: The question for me is, what am I going to do about it? And I've decided I'm a candidate for president of the United States of America.


BLOCK: Bush was speaking at Miami Dade Community College campus in Kendall, Fla. He presented himself as a conservative reformer who improved the state's economy and education system, and he tried to explain how he would be different from his father and brother. Joining us from the event is NPR national-political correspondent, Mara Liasson. And Mara, how did Jeb Bush articulate his vision for why he wants to be president?

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: He said that other people might be pretty good at talking, but he's good at getting things done. He says he wants to fix big things and he can because he did it in Florida. He talked about his education reform record. Of course, as you said, he was at Miami Dade Community College. And he laid out a pretty traditional conservative agenda - tax reform, lowering rates and getting rid of deductions. He wants fewer regulations, stronger defense. And, in an attack not just on Hillary Clinton but also on the Republican senators who are competing with his for the nomination - Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz - he said, we are not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing people who helped create it, meaning only a governor can do it.

BLOCK: Of course, Jeb Bush is the son and brother of past presidents - a lot of questions about baggage that that might bring with it. What did he say about how he'll differentiate himself from Bush 41 and Bush 43?

LIASSON: Well, he - his mom was in the audience. He introduced her. He talked about how blessed he was to be their son. And he also said that his parents were proud to watch him forge his own path. He talked about traveling to Mexico where he met his wife. He said as a candidate, he will be speaking to everyone and staying true to his beliefs. Although he didn't say specifically, we assume he meant sticking to his view that we need comprehensive immigration reform. Producer he talked about how blessed he was to be their son. And he also said that his parents were proud to watch him forge his own path. He talked about traveling to go where he met his wife. He said of the candidates it will be speaking to everyone and staying true to his beliefs although we didn't say specifically. We assume he meant sticking to his view that we need hands of immigration reform. He also presented himself as a candidate who can speak in two languages, if necessary, to voters that have rejected the Republican Party in the past.


BUSH: I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language. (Speaking Spanish).


LIASSON: So Bush is running in the primary as a reliable conservative reform governor, and he's positioning himself for a general election as a big tent, inclusive, new Republican. There were a lot of reminders in the speech today of his brother's compassionate conservatism and his father's kinder, gentler republicanism.

BLOCK: Now, Mara, Jeb Bush has had some trouble lately with the campaign. He's had a shake-up in his senior staff. What's going on?

LIASSON: Well, he hasn't had an as auspicious of a beginning as many Republicans thought he were - would. He's right in the pack. He's not a frontrunner. He slipped in the polls over the past couple of months even though he's raised a record-breaking amount of money and racked up more Republican establishment support than any other candidate. So he's not doing as well as his brother did at this time in 1999, and he shook up his staff to see if he could do better. Today is the day he gets to have a second chance to introduce himself to voters.

BLOCK: And briefly, Mara, Jeb Bush has already changed how presidential campaigns were run in the lead-up to his announcement, right?

LIASSON: There's no doubt about that. He has been very, very aggressive in his use of the super PAC for policymaking, for advertising. He's really pushing the envelope of how campaigns will be financed where unlimited, sometimes anonymous, amounts of money can be used for almost anything. No one has done it as aggressively as he has.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Mara Liasson in Kendall, Fla., where Jeb Bush formally announced today that he is running for president. Mara, thanks so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.