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Jeb Bush Promises Inclusive Campaign As He Runs For President


Jeb Bush is now officially running for the Republican presidential nomination. He kicked off his campaign yesterday with a rally at Miami Dade College. The former governor of Florida, as we all know, is the son and brother of U.S. presidents, but he says his record of conservative accomplishment, and not his last name, qualifies him to be president. Bush promised to reach out to voters Republicans have failed to attract in the past. Here's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Jeb Bush has been raising money, hiring staff and campaigning hard in all the early primary states for months, insisting that he was not a candidate for president. That ended yesterday.


PRES CAND JEB BUSH: Our country's on a very bad course and the question is, what are we going to do about it? The question for me...


BUSH: The question for me is, what am I going to do about it? And I've decided I'm a candidate for president of the United States of America.


LIASSON: Bush presented himself as a conservative reformer who improved Florida's economy and education system, cutting taxes and state government payrolls. He said he was a doer in a field of talkers and could fix big things like the country's tax system and fiscal policy because he'd done it in Florida. In an attack on the Republican senators like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who are competing with him for the nomination, Bush said Washington was the static capital of a dynamic country.


BUSH: We're not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing the people who either helped create it or have proven incapable of fixing it.

LIASSON: Bush has struggled to explain how he'd be different from his father and brother. His campaign logo is meant to help. It's a big red Jeb, exclamation point - no surname. Neither his father nor his brother were at the event yesterday, but his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, was, sitting next to his Mexican-born wife, Columba. Jeb Bush said his parents were proud to see him forge his own path, and he rejected the role of a dynastic candidate who seized the White House as an entitlement. Bush said there are a lot of good candidates running for president.


BUSH: Not one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family or family narrative. It's nobody's turn. It's everybody's test, and it's wide open, exactly as a contest for president should be.


LIASSON: Bush is running in the primary as a conservative reformer and positioning himself for a general election as a big tent inclusive Republican. He presented himself as a candidate who could speak in two languages, if necessary, to win over voters that have rejected the Republican Party in the past.


BUSH: As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language (speaking Spanish).

LIASSON: Bush has said he will run as if he's willing to lose the primary in order to win the general, meaning he won't back away from positions that are unpopular with the GOP base.


BUSH: I will campaign as I would serve - going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching and staying true to what I believe.

LIASSON: Bush supports some kind of legal status for immigrants in this country illegally. On that, he's at odds with much of his party's base who sees legalization as amnesty.


UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: We want Jeb. We want Jeb. We want Jeb.

LIASSON: A handful of protesters briefly interrupted Bush's speech, showing off T-shirts that said legal status is not enough. They were calling on Bush to go even further and support a path to citizenship for some immigrants here illegally. From Florida, Bush will make a quick tour of the early primary states, campaigning and raising money in New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. Mara Liasson, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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