Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush officially kicked off his presidential campaign on Monday by presenting himself as a problem solver who can broaden the Republican party’s appeal.
“Our country is on a very bad course. And the question is: What are we going to do about it?” Bush said. “The question for me is: What am I going to do about it? And I have decided: I am a candidate for president of the United States.”
Bush made the announcement near his south Florida home at Miami Dade University in front of a diverse crowd entertained by Spanish-language music before he spoke. Aides say the school’s diverse student body shows Bush’s willingness to engage with a voters not typically courted by GOP presidential candidates. The announcement was also featured on Snapchat and heavily promoted on social media in an effort to appeal to younger voters.
Bush’s message focused on improving economic progress for the middle class, education and the “phone-it-in foreign policy” of President Obama and Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton. He argued the presidency “should not be passed on from one liberal to the next.”
Notably absent from Bush’s prepared remarks in southern Florida was any mention of immigration. That changed after he was interrupted by protesters wearing shirts that together spelled “legal status is not enough!”
“The next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform so that that will be solved, not by executive order,” Bush fired back.
The brother of one president and son of another hopes his announcement will help right a campaign that has gone off track in recent weeks. He struggled to answer whether, in hindsight, he would have invaded Iraq as his brother, President George W. Bush, did in 2003. A recent staff shakeup also raised questions about dysfunction in the exploratory phase of a presidential bid that has done little to intimidate others from entering the race.
Ten Republicans have entered the 2016 race so far, and a handful more are likely to do so in the coming weeks. One of those includes Bush’s former political protégé, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who threatens to undercut Bush’s support in the state.
“As our whole nation has learned since 2008, executive experience is another term for preparation, and there is no substitute for that,” Bush said in a subtle jab at Rubio and the three other GOP senators in the race. “We are 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.”
Bush’s campaign logo will simply feature his first name and an exclamation point with his last name, which may be a sign of the complicated legacy of his brother's eight years as president. Neither his father nor his brother were at the launch, though Bush did tweet a photo of him talking to his dad, former President George H.W. Bush, before the event.
The most notable member of the Bush that was in attendance was former First Lady Barbara Bush, who notably told NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2013 that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House.
“She’s watching what I say – and frankly, with all these reporters around, I’m watching what she says,” Bush joked.
Following his announcement, Bush will spend the week campaigning in the early voting states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada.
-- NBC's Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report