The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Insiders: Jeb Bush’s smart announcement

Placeholder while article actions load

As soon as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced in a Facebook post yesterday morning that he is going to “actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States,” the usual suspects began parsing his words and trying to determine their hidden meaning. Well, in this case, it is best just to take what he said at face value. Bush let contributors, activists and the media know that his candidacy is headed down the runway. He can still call it off if he so chooses, but clearly, he wants it to fly.

It won’t matter one bit who declared his or her pre-campaign first when it comes time for the live combat of the 2016 primaries, but Bush probably has the most to gain of all potential 2016 candidates by an early announcement. He probably has more contributors, activists and other supporters to corral than anyone else, and he doesn’t want to risk losing them to another campaign or ask them to exist in some phony limbo while he probes. Not only that, but his early statement of intent also allows the media to do their work — and by “do their work,” I mean go ahead and start taking their shots. If there is something they want to say or might discover, now is the time to get it all out there. It’s not that the scrutiny of presidential candidates ever ends, but to go ahead and exhaust the obvious, readily available criticisms that come from having the last name of Bush is wise.

And a side note: There are rumors that there are already some anti-Bush ads created by Republican opponents. Well, nobody should be spending a penny on these just yet. If any campaign does, you can bet there will be a snowy day in New Hampshire in 2016 when they will need to hire a bus, will need to run ads in a crucial market or will have some other last-minute expense, and they will wish they had that money back.

Anyway, I’m sure Bush struggled with how to deal with the surreal nature of a faux-candidacy — and rather than continue down that road, he decided to be forthright. Clearly, he didn’t want to be stuck in the pretend world of coyly saying, “President? Who, me?” or having to claim that he was still praying about it or whatever. Authenticity seems to be in short supply in politics these days, and there is a big appetite for candor about what you are going to do. If you believe in something, why hide it? Why pretend? I think Bush’s announcement was the smart thing to do. I suspect there are several potential Republican candidates today who wish they had gone ahead and declared first.