Jeb Bush Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush flashes a power watch before giving his keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington on Nov. 20, 2014.
Susan Walsh—AP
By Zeke J Miller
Updated: December 16, 2014 4:57 PM ET

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announced Tuesday morning he will “actively explore” a run for the White House in 2016, becoming the first Republican out of the starting gate nearly two years before Election Day.

In brief messages posted on Facebook and Twitter, Bush, the son and brother of two former Oval Office occupants, said he had discussed the possibility of his candidacy over Thanksgiving weekend and decided to proceed with preparing to launch a campaign.

“As a result of these conversations and thoughtful consideration of the kind of strong leadership I think America needs, I have decided to actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States,” Bush wrote.

Bush is an early favorite of the Republican party’s establishment and donor class, who have largely remained on the sidelines in anticipation of Bush’s announcement, but he will face ardent opposition from the conservative base of the party, who find his moderate positions on Common Core and immigration reforms to be objectionable. At a panel in Washington earlier this month, Bush said the party’s nominee must “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles,” an indication that he would not change his positions in order to win the nomination.

In recent days, Bush aides have signalled that he was more likely to announce a White House bid, feeling he is the most qualified to take on likely Democratic nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His announcement instantly puts pressure on Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who share many of the same backers as Bush, to shore up their own donor support if they intend to run.

In January, Bush will form a leadership PAC to allow him to travel the country and to donate money to state and local officials who could support him should he make his announcement official. But he is stopping short of official forming a “presidential exploratory committee,” which would mean he and his aides could not coordinate with outside groups.

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