Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush at the 2014 National Summit on Education Reform in Washington in November. Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By MICHAEL BARBARO and NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
JAN. 6, 2015

Jeb Bush on Tuesday delivered a powerful message about two of the most vital ingredients in a presidential campaign, money and ideas, transforming himself from a figure who once seemed paralyzed by ambivalence over a White House run into the most forceful presence within the emerging Republican field.

With the flip of a Facebook switch, Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida, disclosed the formation of a full-time political apparatus that can begin raising money with an eye toward 2016 and laid out a campaign rationale that was striking for its emphasis on big, knotty, bipartisan concepts like immigration overhaul and income inequality.

Mr. Bush, 61, a figure indelibly linked to the Republican Party’s past, seems determined to offer himself as an intellectual midwife of its future — a break from the party’s struggle to win over minority voters and the kind of ideological infighting, on display Tuesday when conservatives tried to oust Speaker John A. Boehner, that Mr. Bush could face in primaries.

“We will not cede an inch of territory — no issues, no demographic groups, no voters,” he wrote in a statement on the website of his new organization, called Right to Rise. To emphasize the point, and showcase his social media savvy, Mr. Bush appeared on a cellphone video Tuesday speaking both English and Spanish.

In the process, he is employing a well-worn playbook of early, aggressive and high-profile maneuvers to deflect attention and resources from his potential rivals, who have remained largely quiet over the past few weeks as the son and brother of presidents commanded the spotlight.

“What it is designed to do is provide first-mover advantage to a strong player with the objective of sucking as much oxygen out of the room as you possibly can,” said Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, who is supporting Mr. Bush and was a prominent contributor to the campaigns of his brother, former President George W. Bush.

But the tactics carry genuine risk: Mr. Bush, who told friends that he was in no hurry to enter a presidential contest that is still two years off, is now placing himself directly in the cross hairs of both Republicans and Democrats who view him as a threat.

As Mr. Bush announced Right to Rise, a group tied to Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, bought ads on Google that would direct anyone searching for information about Mr. Bush to a web page about Mr. Paul.

And in a sign of how quickly, and inadvertently, messages can be muddled, Mr. Bush posted the video of himself speaking in front of BlackRock, a Wall Street investment firm, on a day when he was trying to highlight the plight of the middle class. Social media lit up with unflattering references to the juxtaposition.

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