Any doubts that Jeb Bush is going to run for president in 2016 are fast disppearing as the former Florida governor has now resigned from all of his memberships on the boards of corporations and non-profits.
With recent polls showing Bush with a 10 point lead over the field of likely GOP candidates, the candidate’s “exploration” of a run appears on track for a springtime announcement.
Jeb Bush has resigned all of his board memberships — both nonprofit and business — in a move that helps clear a path toward a 2016 presidential campaign.
The former Florida governor stepped down from his remaining board memberships on Wednesday, the last day of the year, an aide said Wednesday night. It’s a continuation of a process that began earlier in the month when Bush announced plans to actively explore a White House bid.
Spokesman Kristy Campbell called Bush’s review of his business interests “a natural next step as he turns his focus to gauging whether there is support for a potential candidacy.”
Bush, the son of one president and brother of another, is seen as an early favorite of the Republican establishment as the next presidential primary season begins. He launched a series of private business ventures after leaving the Florida governor’s mansion in 2007.
Potential foes in both parties have already begun to pour through Bush’s extensive private dealings in search of fodder for criticism.
The Wednesday moves, first reported by The Washington Post, do not affect other business interests in which he is a partner. Those include his business consulting company, Jeb Bush and Associates, and Britton Hill Holdings, a Florida-based private equity and business advisory group.
While some strategists have said Bush’s private-equity work could open him to some of the same criticisms that dogged Mitt Romney, the GOP’s last presidential nominee, Bush himself has said his business record would be an asset in a campaign.
He previously announced plans to step down from the board of Tenet Healthcare Corp. and leave his advisory role with British banking giant Barclays by Dec. 31. He severed ties to other business entities on Wednesday including the for-profit education company Academic Partnerships, Empower Software Solutions and CorMatrix Cardiovascular Inc.
Earlier in the week Bush resigned from the board of timber company Rayonier Inc.
So does Jeb have a “Mitt problem“? Perhaps not, but there’s plenty of ammunition for a decent oppo researcher to uncover.
In July, Lou Dubose reported on Bush’s role as spokesman for a Miami firm that bilked millions from investors, and whose founder, Claudio Osorio, is now serving time in federal prison. Osorio was a known fraud before Bush came on board, and Bush stayed on board even as Osorio was under investigation. As Dubose wrote in The Washington Spectator, the evidence suggests at least “an ethical blind spot that led Bush to ignore the fact that the book value and returns reported by InnoVida executives were impossible under any reasonable set of financial assumptions. … Bush endorsed a company that defrauded its shareholders and the government while failing to deliver its product to market.”
Romney’s problems were cumulative. Revelations about Bain Capital were spun to paint a dramatic picture of Romney as a robber baron capitalist who didn’t care about ordinary people.
Will the Democrats be as successful in drawing a caricature of Jeb Bush? Romney came off as a northeastern patrician even without the Bain baggage. But Bush’s southern charm and approachable personality might make him more electable. His name may be a detriment in some quarters and his positions on immigration and Common Core — to name just two issues — will cause him trouble with Republicans.
But he is going to have more money than anyone else, and a network of supporters from coast to coast. Jeb Bush is not guaranteed a victory. But he’s got a tremendous head start on the rest of the field.
What he does with that early advantage will be the key to a successful run.