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What Jeb Bush's announcement means for the 2016 White House race

@MarcACaputo

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is basically running for president now, giving him instant frontrunner status and implicitly pressuring other Republicans to decide whether to run for the White House against him in 2016.

“I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States,” the Republican said on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday morning.

“In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation,” Bush wrote. “The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.”

Though the political action committee will help support others, its prime beneficiary is Bush and his presidential ambitions.

Bush didn’t explicitly say he’s definitely running, but the PAC is the clearest sign yet that an official announcement is likely a formality. The committee tells donors, activists and the general public that Bush is serious about a 2016 presidential bid.

“The big institutional donors of the Republican Party want to know where to put their money, and Jeb has now shown them where,” said Rick Willson, a Republican consultant from Tallahassee.

For months, as Bush hinted he would run, high-level Republican donors and fundraisers who backed Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign started wondering if Bush would run. So they tried to recruit Romney, which helped pressure Bush into this decision, Wilson speculated.

Bush’s announcement, his backers hope, will quiet the talk of a Romney resurrection.

A national McClatchy-Marist poll released Monday showed Romney would likely lead a crowded GOP field with 19 percent of the theoretical Republican vote. Bush received 14 percent support. Without Romney in the race, Bush would be the national frontrunner with 16 percent support –-not a commanding lead.

But regardless of whether the GOP’s nominee was Bush Romney or someone else, the McClatchy Marist poll indicated that the Democrats’ likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, would defeat each by about 12 percentage points.

Aside from Romney, Bush’s decision puts pressure on his protégé, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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