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5 Things You Should Know About Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush is set to announce his candidacy for president Monday. If he wins, he would be the third Bush to be president in the past 25 years. Jeb Bush has said he's his own man. Well, here are five things you should know about him.

1. Jeb Bush is not his real name

For a lot of people, Jeb is short for their longer, more formal name Jebediah. Not so for Jeb Bush. His name is actually an acronym, a shorter version of the much more formal John Ellis Bush.

Bush was named after two uncles, as his mother, Barbara Bush, wrote in a 2003 memoir, Reflections: Life After the White House:

"Our son John Ellis Bush, 'Jeb,' the great Governor of Florida, was named after 41's brother Jon and Nan's husband, 'Sandy' Ellis —Alexander Ellis, Jr. — whom we both admired and loved."

Jeb Bush's youngest son is named Jeb Bush Jr. And, no, Jeb isn't his real name either. It's, you guessed it, John Ellis Bush Jr.

2. It's been suggested he would be America's first Hispanic president

No, he is not Latino. Even though it was revealed that he checked off the box that said "Hispanic" on a voter registration form in 2009. It prompted the following tweet from his official account:

@JebBush My mistake! Don't think I've fooled anyone! RT @JebBushJr LOL - come on dad, think you checked the wrong box #HonoraryLatino

Bush himself comes from New England Protestant stock. But while still in high school, he was part of a student-exchange program in Leon, Mexico, where he met and fell in love with a local girl. Her name was Columba Garnica Gallo and upon marriage in 1974, she became Columba Bush.

Early in their marriage, they lived in Caracas, Venezuela, where Jeb Bush worked for a branch of a Texas bank. Jeb Bush is fluent in Spanish and has often appeared in campaign ads throughout his political career speaking the language. Their three children — all now adults — have mixed U.S.-Mexican heritage.

3. He played a major role in the 2000 presidential election

During the 2000 presidential campaign, Florida was considered critically important to both sides path to victory. That turned out to be more true than anyone could have predicted.

For months, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was a key player in his brother George W. Bush's campaign to carry the state in November. He was confident he'd be able to deliver Florida's electoral voters to the GOP column. But Jeb was stunned when, early in the evening, TV networks began calling Florida a win for Democratic nominee Al Gore. A photo from the governor's mansion in Austin, Texas, where the Bush campaign awaited results, shows Jeb Bush, in shirtsleeves, clearly disturbed by the images he's seeing on TV. He'd felt he'd let his brother down.

In a postelection wrap-up, Time magazine wrote:

"With tears in his eyes, Jeb apologized to his brother for letting him down. Poppy and Barbara were distraught. The family business — politics — was now tearing at the fabric of the family itself. The media reports had been hard to take: reports that Jeb hadn't worked hard enough for George, that he resented George's relatively greater success and was worried that a George in the White House would almost certainly mean there would never be a Jeb in the White House. Now those notions and rumors could harden into truths passed on from one stranger to another: Jeb had failed. He had sabotaged his brother's campaign. He couldn't deliver."

Ultimately that night, Jeb worked the phones and began poring over detailed county-by-county vote tallies.

Confusion reigned. Within hours, the Florida call was retracted. Later that night, the state was given to Bush-Cheney. Then it was retracted again. And finally, in the very early morning hours, it was given back to Bush. A fierce recount battle ensued. Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court awarded the election to George W. Bush on Dec. 12, 2000. It was a nervous month for the Florida governor.

4. Floridians think he was a conservative governor. So why do so many GOP activists think he's a moderate?

Jeb Bush cut taxes, slashed the ranks of state employees and attacked what he saw as overly burdensome regulations. And he was a strong social conservative, most notably in the case of Terry Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman who had been unconscious for more than a decade. Schiavo's husband wanted to remove a feeding tube that was keeping her alive. Bush, as governor, fought him at every turn, signing special legislation to prevent the removal of the tube.

But conservative voters in 2016 label Bush a moderate. They cite his support for a path to legal status for the millions of immigrants in the U.S. illegally. They also feel his support for Common Core education standards would be detrimental to school districts' local control.

The Republican Party has also grown more conservative over the past 20 years, with fewer true moderate members, so many activists now put Jeb Bush firmly in the category.

5. His campaign record is 2 for 3

Most of Jeb Bush's adult life has been spent in the private sector. He made a fortune in the real estate business in Florida, the state he moved to as a young man.

But, true to family tradition, he's been successful in politics as well. He started out on a losing note in 1994. He took on a vulnerable incumbent, Florida's Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. The race was extremely close, but Chiles was victorious.

"It's always tough to lose, but we'll be back," Bush said on election night. He was, eventually winning the governorship four years later and re-election in 2002. But that is the last time his name appeared on a ballot. There have been moments at events in the past six months when he has seemed a little rusty. That could indeed be the product of almost a dozen years off the campaign trail.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.
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