Jeb Bush Poised to Formally Join 2016 Campaign

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Former Florida governor Jeb Bush was supposed to assemble the strongest roster of aides and donors, spooking would-be rivals for the Republicans’ presidential nomination from the race.

His political machine was expected to have $100 million on the first day as a declared candidate. Eventually, no one would ask about his family, which has spawned two Presidents, or his support for Common Core education standards or liberal views on illegal immigrants.

None of that has happened.

Bush replaced his campaign manager last week as internal fights spilled into public view. His broader campaign-finance orbit is expected to come up short of the nine-figure war chest it wanted to have at the ready. And he continues to be so dogged about the Bush legacy and tremendous distrust among conservative activists that a third member of the dynasty should live in the White House, he ditched the Bush name altogether in his campaign logo and is going for just “Jeb!”

For others inside the party, they cannot accept his policy positions on education and immigration that fall squarely outside of orthodoxy. As he prepares to formally join the 2016 contest on Monday near Miami, Bush will need to have a better showing than he enjoyed during the lead-up to the launch.

See Jeb Bush's Life in Photos

Jeb Bush Life in Photos
George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, Jan. 1, 1955.Sygma/Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
From left to right: Doro, Marvin, Neil, and Jeb Bush, fall 1963.George Bush Presidential Library
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
From left to right: Doro, George, Jeb, Marvin, George W., Neil, and Barbara Bush, 1966.George Bush Presidential Library
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Jeb Bush (center) was the varsity tennis team captain during his senior year at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., 1971. Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
George Bush and his four sons, Neil, Jeb, George W. and Marvin in 1970. Bob E. Daemmrich—Sygma/Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Jeb and Columba Bush on their wedding day, Feb. 23, 1974.George Bush Presidential Library
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Jeb Bush loudly applauds his father, Republican presidential hopeful George Bush, at a campaign rally in Concord, N.H. on Feb. 28, 1980.Frank Lorenzo—Bettmann/Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Vice President George Bush holds a fish with his sons George W. and Jeb during a family vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine in Aug. 1983.Cynthia Johnson—Getty Images
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
From left to right (without children): Neil and Sharon Bush, George W. Bush and wife Laura, Barbara and George Bush, Margaret and Marvin, Bobby Koch and Dorothy, Jeb and Columba, are seen in this Bush family photo taken in Kennebunkport, Maine on Aug. 24, 1986.Dave Valdez—White House/Sygma/Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Jeb Bush plays cards with his son while riding in a recreational vehicle, Nov. 8, 1993.Christopher Little—Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Jeb Bush is interviewed at a Miami Radio Station, WIOD, Mar. 1980. He went on to become Governor of Florida in 1999.Tim Chapman—Getty Images
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
George W. Bush and Jeb Bush at the Republican Governors' Convention in New Orleans, 1998. Nina Berman—SIPA
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Texas governor George W. Bush celebrates good news with his brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush, while watching the presidential election returns, prior to being elected as President of the United States, inside the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Nov. 7, 2000. Brooks Kraft—Sygma/Corbis
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Republican governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, studies his laptop watching vote returns for his reelection his wife Columba Bush and his parents, former President George Bush and first lady Barbara Bush in Miami on Nov. 5, 2002.Joe Burbank—Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images
Jeb Bush Life in Photos
Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney, campaigns around Florida with Governor Jeb Bush, left, Senator Marco Rubio, right, and Congressman Connie Mack, left back of head, in Coral Gables, Fla. on Oct., 31, 2012. Melina Mara—The Washington Post/Getty Images
Jeb Bush speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.
Jeb Bush speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md. on Feb. 27, 2015.Mark Peterson—Redux for TIME

Take, for instance, Bush’s first week of May. He gave the commencement address at evangelical Liberty University and sat down with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. During his chat with Kelly, he faced questions about the war in Iraq, launched in 2003 by then President George W. Bush. Asked if he would have gone to war, knowing now that the Iraqi government did not possess weapons of mass destruction, he answered in the affirmative.

His advisers said he misheard the question, he said he didn’t understand it and then he called such queries “hypotheticals.” His rivals piled on while he tried not to criticize his brother or the war that killed 4,491 Americans. Donors started to phone headquarters with advice to the former governor: “Admit you got it wrong and be done with it,” one fundraiser told a Bush adviser. In the span of a week, Bush watched his campaign in waiting deflate.

But Bush’s political machine was built to weather such a beating. Bush started assembling his team last year, tapping longtime adviser Sally Bradshaw as his top lieutenant. She brought together some of the biggest names in the party: media strategist Mike Murphy, Iowa’s most respected operative David Kochel as national campaign manager and a raft of Washington insiders to fill senior jobs. His top aides in New Hampshire are veterans of presidential, Senate and gubernatorial races, and his South Carolina team is about as gold-plated as can be found.

“He has assembled a first-rate team,” said former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney told reporters at a retreat this weekend in Deer Valley, Utah. “The people around him are experienced and capable. Many of them I know from my own campaigns and I had high regard for.” But they never really fit together with the candidate, who is a demanding yet out-of-practice boss.

As for money, Romney perhaps continued to reinforce expectations that Bush could fail to clear. “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear he raised twice as much as all the others combined,” Romney said. “I think it’s going to be a big number, because he’s worked it very hard.” Aides last week conceded the $100 million goal was not going to happen by Monday’s launch.

Sensing other troubles ahead, Bush and Bradshaw shook up the campaign at the same time. They shifted Kochel to the role of strategist and brought aboard hard-nosed operative Danny Diaz to fill the top job. The campaign portrayed it as a minor tweak. But it was also a public sign that Bush realizes his preannouncement period had gone poorly and he needs a change. If he is to become the third member of his family to call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home, he cannot afford a repeat of the past six months.

— With reporting by Zeke J Miller / Deer Valley

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