Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has captivated the political world and shaken up his potential presidential rivals in both parties by bursting out of the blocks as the presumed Republican frontrunner in the race for the White House.
In just one week, Bush set up a nationwide fundraising drive, started meeting with major donors, seemingly lampooned Hillary Clinton, signed up top GOP operatives for his campaign, and urged Americans to accept court rulings favoring gay marriage, according to Politico
But possibly more important, he's also been busy energizing his famous family's powerful political network, created by his father, President George H.W. Bush, and then expanded by his brother, President George W. Bush.
"In part because he is perceived as a proud pragmatist and sometime moderate in a party that has grown increasingly conservative, Jeb Bush does not possess the power to effectively clear the field and lock up the GOP establishment that his brother … did in the run-up to his 2000 campaign," writes Politico's Todd Purdum.
"But Jeb Bush does have the immediate ability to tap the resources, expertise, loyalty and sharply honed political skills of the extended network of friends and advisers that has made his family a force in national life for more than 40 years."
After recently declaring that he was seriously considering a 2016 bid, Bush went right to work by creating two PACs, both called Right to Rise, which stunned his likely White House rivals and forced them into action.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a probable presidential candidate, tried to play catch-up in the race on Thursday when he slammed Bush in an interview, saying the ex-governor was ignoring the GOP's conservative base
As an indication of the Bush family's extensive network, Jeb Bush was set up with a meet-and-greet this week with influential New Yorkers at the KKR & Co. leveraged buyout firm GOP stalwart, Politico reported.
The meeting was arranged by leading strategist GOP Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mark Wallace, his first "body man" as Florida governor who later served in senior posts in the second Bush administration.
Bush also found time to enlist Sal Purpura — a veteran campaign finance compliance expert who worked on Bush's first gubernatorial campaign in 1994 — as the assistant treasurer of his new leadership PAC, associates told the political news website.
"His announcement didn't just light up the wires, it torched 'em," said Mark McKinnon, the longtime political consultant and Bush family friend, about Bush's possible candidacy in 2016 and his two political action committees.
"To the extent there was any hesitation on the part of his prospective supporters, it was driven very much by perceived hesitation on his part," McKinnon told Politico. "By throwing down the gauntlet so forcefully, Jeb has instantly galvanized the extensive Bush network.
"By being first to market, he is scooping up financial support from those who may have gone another direction had he waited. And, most importantly, it demonstrates the most important thing a successful president must have: fire in the belly."
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