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Jeb Bush in the White House? He’s considering it
Bush has spent much of his post-governorship studying education policy and advocating for the kinds of changes he pioneered in Florida, including publicly-funded private school vouchers and stricter accountability standards for teachers and students. At the same time, he has promoted overhauling the nation's immigration system and providing a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants who are here illegally, an intensely personal effort. His wife, Columba, grew up in Mexico. The two met while Bush was an exchange student there; she is now an American citizen. Bush speaks fluent Spanish.
His personal story and immigration advocacy could help him connect with Latinos, a group that Republicans have long struggled to court.
"He needs no briefing sheets when it comes to what's important to Hispanics," said Ana Navarro, a Bush friend and GOP strategist.
But the former Florida governor's education and immigration efforts would likely put him at odds with conservative activists.
Bush has been a champion of so-called "Common Core" academic standards, which were developed by a bipartisan group of governors and state school officials and later promoted by the Obama administration. Many conservatives see them as a federal takeover of local classrooms. Likewise, anti-immigration activists have battled Bush-backed immigration legislation in Congress that they consider "amnesty" for lawbreakers.
"We're seeing from Jeb Bush's actions that he likes having a government that has much more say in people's lives," said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.
Over the past two years, in speeches and public appearances, Bush has chafed at what he calls "purity tests" inside the GOP, saying both his father and former President Ronald Reagan would struggle in the tea party era.
Citing a scheduling conflict, he declined an invitation to speak this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the country's largest annual gathering of conservative activists.
"I'm a conservative and I'm a practicing one, not a talk-about-it one," Bush said last year.
In Florida, Bush slashed billions of dollars in taxes, toughened crime laws and revamped the state's education system. But he has refused to sign the anti-tax pledge that many activists now consider sacrosanct. He has told Republicans the party needs to shed the perception that it's "anti-everything."
Allies and adversaries alike question whether Bush, a policy wonk who often talks about "big, hairy, audacious goals," could stomach the hyper-partisanship and gridlock in Washington.
"He's accustomed to moving an agenda," said Dan Gelber, a former state senator and Democratic leader who often tussled with Bush in Tallahassee, "and I think he's got to be wondering how he would do that."
Follow Michael J. Mishak on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjmishak