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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Tuesday announced he will “actively explore” a run for the White House in 2016.

The former Florida governor said in a Facebook post that he intends to create a new leadership PAC in January “that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation.”

{mosads}Bush would enter the race as a financial juggernaut able to draw on his brother’s campaign and fundraising apparatus. He could also become the preferred candidate for the establishment wing of the GOP.

Besides his family name, Bush brings to the table a two-term record that is popular with conservative-leaning voters in Florida, expertise on education and strong ties to the Hispanic community.

But he would undoubtedly have major vulnerabilities in what could be the strongest field of Republican candidates in years.

Some grassroots conservatives are furious at Bush for his support of Common Core education standards and comprehensive immigration reform.

Bush earlier this month made clear he anticipates friction with the conservative base if he seeks the nomination, saying a nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

“We don’t have to make a point any more as Republicans,” he said. “We have to actually show that we can, in an adult-like way, we can govern, lead,” Bush said.

Allies of Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, have made clear they think Bush would be a formidable opponent.

“You can’t discount a Bush. Not at all,” one Democratic consultant who worked on Clinton’s 2008 campaign recently told The Hill. “For a Republican, he makes one of the most salient points for Hispanics and their perspective and he could easily carry Florida, a swing state.”

Bush’s move Tuesday is the latest step he’s taken toward a presidential bid after staying quiet for much of the year.

On Monday, he visited the crucial early primary state of South Carolina to deliver a commencement address, and over the weekend he announced he will release thousands of pages of official emails from his time as Florida governor.

He also plans to release a policy-focused e-book outlining his vision for the country.

In his Facebook message, Bush promised to “be in touch soon” about his next steps.

The former Florida governor’s early moves could also pressure other would-be candidates to move up their presidential timelines, especially those with ties to the establishment who would be competing with Bush for staff, resources and votes.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has said he’d decide early next year about his own possible run, though he could be frozen out of the race due to his mentor’s moves. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) could also feel pressure to pick up the pace on his bid.

A spokesman for Rubio on Tuesday insisted Bush’s announcement won’t affect his decision about whether to run.

“Marco has a lot of respect for Governor Bush, and believes he would be a formidable candidate,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said. “However, Marco’s decision on whether to run for president or re-election will be based on where he can best achieve his agenda to restore the American dream — not on who else might be running.”

Democrats, meanwhile, wasted little time going on the attack against Bush.

“The announcement is hardly a surprise and will no doubt satiate GOP voters’ burning desire for another establishment Republican millionaire with a tangled web of problematic financial ventures,” Jesse Lehrich of the Democratic group American Bridge wrote in an email to reporters.

“If Jeb Bush wants to be scrutinized under the microscope of the presidential vetting process, that’s his prerogative, but he does so at the peril of his reputation.”

Jeb Bush’s full Facebook message:

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

Like many of you, our family was blessed with the opportunity to gather together over the recent Thanksgiving holiday.  

Columba and I are so proud of the wonderful adults our children have become, and we loved spending time with our three precious grandchildren.

We shared good food and watched a whole lot of football.

We also talked about the future of our nation. 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.

In January, I also plan to establish a Leadership PAC that will help me facilitate conversations with citizens across America to discuss the most critical challenges facing our exceptional nation. The PAC’s purpose will be to support leaders, ideas and policies that will expand opportunity and prosperity for all Americans.

In the coming months, I hope to visit with many of you and have a conversation about restoring the promise of America.  

Best wishes to you and your families for a happy holiday season. I’ll be in touch soon.

Jeb Bush

Updated at 1:12 p.m.

Tags Hillary Clinton Marco Rubio

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