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Bush set to release emails ahead of likely White House bid

February 9, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared a singular focus on a potential White House bid Monday and said he is ready to release thousands of emails and the first chapter of a related e-book intended to highlight his compassionate leadership style and conservative credentials.

Bush, the son and brother of former presidents, has yet to announce his political intentions, but he has been among the most aggressive Republican presidential prospects in recent weeks.

Although many months remain until the first votes are cast in the presidential race, Democrats are already trying to stop Bush from defining himself as a reformer who aims to close the gap between the rich and poor. They have drawn unflattering comparisons between him and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

There is no overwhelming favorite for the Republican nomination. But Romney’s recent decision to not run in 2016 could be a boost for Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who were competing for the support of the Republican Party’s establishment-minded voters and donors. The eventual Republican nominee will likely face Hillary Rodham Clinton, the clear leader for the Democratic nomination, should she decide to enter the race.

During a conference call, Bush cited the support from his family as he eyes the 2016 campaign.

“Thanks to the support that I have from my beloved wife and family, my life is totally focused on this,” he said.

Bush said he would release the materials on Tuesday. While many news outlets previously obtained the emails from Bush’s time in office, the former two-term governor suggested his interaction with constituents and staff would help shape his message in a prospective presidential campaign.

“One of things that came out this was a sense there is a story to be told here,” Bush said, describing “a style of leadership that tried to help people.”

The Associated Press was provided dial-in details and listened to the call.

Bush spoke in more depth than he had previously about the themes that would define a potential campaign.

In what was a revealing look inside Bush’s thinking, he called on his allies to show respect and demonstrate hopefulness among Hispanic voters and other groups that have shrunk as part of the Republican electorate.

“Because our message was maybe too harsh or our harsher voices are the ones that seem to have dominated, we’ve lost a little ground,” he said during the 20-minute call. “But the fact that I’m bilingual, bicultural can’t hurt.”

Bush’s wife Columba is from Mexico. Bush is fluent in Spanish, and received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in Latin American studies.

Democrats are trying to paint Bush as this campaign’s Romney, who struggled in 2012 against criticism related to his work in private equity and his portrayal by President Barack Obama’s allies as a cold-hearted plutocrat.

Romney opposed the government’s 2008 rescue of U.S. automakers as did Bush. Both worked in finance and backed the Wall Street bailout. Both are advocates of tax cuts that Democrats contend only benefit the wealthy and big business.

“We don’t need to try to show that Jeb is like Romney. He pretty much is Romney,” said Eddie Vale, vice president of American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal group set up to conduct opposition research on Republicans.

Bush hinted during the call at what would be his diplomatic and national security priorities, which he plans to outline in a speech in Chicago next week.

He said his top spending priority would be to “protect our shores,” and would promote U.S. power as “a force of good not bad.” He made no reference to Iraq, where his brother, former President George W. Bush, was criticized for waging an unpopular war.

Bush said he would call for an increase in defense funding “and defend vigorously the counterintelligence efforts that have protected the homeland.”

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