Jeb Bush is expected to avoid presidential politics when he discusses education at a national summit, but his remarks will likely stoke speculation about a potential campaign in 2016.
The former Florida governor is making his first major speech since Republicans scored sweeping victories in the midterm elections. He is set to deliver the opening address Thursday at his education foundation’s annual gathering in Washington.
Bush has been one of the country’s most vocal supporters of academic standards known as Common Core, which have emerged as a political flashpoint for many conservatives. A majority of states have adopted the standards, which also have been embraced by the Obama administration.
While the reading and math benchmarks were developed by a bipartisan group of governors and superintendents, the Obama administration later promoted them as a way to win federal education grants. For that reason, many Republican activists ? and several potential GOP presidential candidates ? have come to view them as federal intrusion into local classrooms.
Bush, however, has not flinched, defending the higher academic standards and often challenging critics to offer solutions. “Criticisms and conspiracy theories are easy attention grabbers,” he told attendees at last year’s summit. “Solutions are hard work. Be a problem solver.”
His decision on a presidential bid is one of the largest factors looming over the GOP field. Establishment Republicans and big-money donors see a pragmatic governor who won two terms in the nation’s largest swing state in part by appealing to Florida’s fast-growing Hispanic population.
While friends and former aides say they would welcome a White House bid by Bush, they have questioned whether he has the desire to return to the political arena 12 years after his last campaign. In his public speeches, he often laments the partisan vitriol of modern campaigning, and those close to him say he is enjoying a lucrative career as a businessman.
Still, the education summit follows a busy campaign season in which Bush barnstormed the country for Senate and gubernatorial candidates. He also quietly built political capital with GOP leaders in key states by headlining a series of private fundraisers.
Bush, who has said he will make a decision on a 2016 bid by the end of the year, has repeatedly said he must determine whether a presidential campaign would be right for his family. Both his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, former President George W. Bush, have urged him to run.
Follow Michael J. Mishak on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mjmishak