Republican Candidate for Colorado US Senate Congressman Cory Gardner at a rally headlined by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colorado October 29, 2014. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush formally announced Tuesday that he will launch a political action committee tasked with "exploring a presidential bid.”

“Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday. We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football. We also talked about the future of our nation,” Bush wrote in a holiday Facebook post shared with his supporters. “As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.”

Bush said in the message that he plans to establish a “Leadership PAC that will facilitate conversations with citizens across America.” It is unclear if the new PAC will function in the same capacity as a presidential exploratory committee, but the announcement is the biggest public step the Florida Republican has taken toward a presidential run.

“The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” Bush wrote. “In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.”

Several high-profile Republicans have indicated their interest in running for the presidency in 2016, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In his most definitive step yet toward running for president, former Florida governor Jeb Bush told his followers on Facebook and Twitter he will "actively explore" a campaign. (AP)

Bush would enter the race as a clear establishment favorite, boasting a deep bench of major donors and enormous name recognition garnered through his family’s long political history and his own record as governor of Florida. Despite an influential network of supporters, Bush was until Tuesday publicly vague about his intentions, pointing to concerns about the toll a presidential campaign might take on his family.

Still, a Bush candidacy has looked increasingly likely in recent weeks. Bush and his allies have reportedly been privately emailing Republican donors urging them not to commit funds to other would-be GOP candidates. Meanwhile, Bush strategist Mike Murphy has reached out to political operatives to encourage them to hold off on signing on to work for other candidates.

In addition to compiling opposition research on himself, sources close to Bush say that he is distancing himself from several business relationships.

Over the weekend Bush announced that he would release a trove of 250,000 emails from his tenure as Florida's governor from 1999 to 2007, a move he said was part of an effort to "be totally transparent." That release was seen as an indication that he is looking to get ahead of any potentially negative stories about his time in office -- and an attempt to send a message to would-be rivals about the level of disclosure they would be expected to match. He also plans to release an e-book in early 2015.

“In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America,” Bush wrote in his Tuesday statement. “Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season. I’ll be in touch soon.”

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush told fall 2014 graduates "no matter what path you choose, don't let anyone else ever tell you how big to dream." (University of South Carolina)