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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush kicks off 2016 presidential campaign

The brother and son of former presidents says no one deserves White House “by right”

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

florida mugMIAMI (CFP) — Arguing that the United States is “on a very bad course,” former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, saying Democrats are trying “to hold on to power, to slog on with the same agenda under another name.”

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

“We will take command of our future once again in this country. We will lift our sights again, make opportunity common again, get events in the world moving our way again,” Bush said at a June 15 rally at Miami-Dade Community College.

“We will take Washington — the static capital of this dynamic country — out of the business of causing problems. We will get back on the side of free enterprise and free people.”

Bush, the son and brother of presidents, also tried to put a bit of distance between himself and his famous family name, saying “not a one of us deserves the job by right of resume, party, seniority, family or family narrative.”

“It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open — exactly as a contest for president should be,” he said. “The outcome is entirely up to you, the voters.”

At the rally, the Bush campaign unveiled its logo, which features the word “Jeb” followed by an exclamation point — with no mention of his last name.

Bush also delivered part of his opening speech in Spanish, and his campaign website is in both English and Spanish — nods to Latino voters who in recent elections have trended Democratic.

Bush’s wife, Columba, whom he married in 1974, was born in Mexico, which he jokingly described as part of his “cross-border outreach.”

Bush, 62, served two terms as governor of the Sunshine State from 1999 to 2007. He was mentioned as a candidate for president in 2012 but opted not to run.

In his opening address, he touted his record as governor, noting that during his time in Tallahassee, Florida topped the nation in job creation and taxes were cut every year he was in office.

“A self-serving attitude can take hold in any capital, just as it once did in Tallahassee,” he said. “I was a governor who refused to accept that as the normal or right way of conducting the people’s business. I will not accept it as the standard in Washington. We don’t need another president who merely holds the top spot among the pampered elites of Washington.”

While not mentioning any of his Republican opponents by name, Bush took a strong swipe at Democrats, attacking the “phone-it-in foreign policy” of the “Obama-Clinton-Kerry team” and saying the opposition has “offered a progressive agenda that includes everything but progress.”

“They are responsible for the slowest economic recovery ever, the biggest debt increases ever, a massive tax increase on the middle class, the relentless buildup of the regulatory state and the swift, mindless downturn of a military that was generations in the making,” he said.

And in a remark that drew strong applause from Cuban-American Republicans in the audience, he criticized Obama for considering making a state visit to Communist Cuba.

“We don’t need a glorified tourist to go to Havana in support of a failed Cuba,” he said. “We need an American president to go to Havana in solidarity with a free Cuban people, and I am ready to be that president.”

Bush also steered clear of two issues that have caused him heartburn with the GOP’s Tea Party base — immigration reform and the Common Core educational standards, both of which he supports.

Bush is one of eight Southern Republicans who have launched, or are expected to launch, presidential bids in 2016.

Those already in the race include former governors Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry of Texas and U.S. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana expected to announce his candidacy soon, now that his state’s legislature has adjourned for the year.

The Southern GOP field is divided equally between senators and governors. Two of the last three Republicans elected president — George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan — served as governor, while the last GOP senator elected to the presidency was Warren Harding in 1920.

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia has already launched an exploratory committee for the 2016 Democratic nomination — a race that’s expected to be dominated by former Secretary of State Clinton, a former first lady of Arkansas who went on to be elected to the Senate from New York.

Watch the video of Bush’s campaign kickoff:

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