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Jeb Bush launches Republican presidential bid

Jeb Bush launched his Republican presidential bid Monday, telling supporters he will "take command of our future" if elected, while changing Washington's direction on issues including foreign policy, the economy and the military.

Former Florida governor joins crowded race, vows to 'take command of our future'

Former Florida governor joins crowded race, vows to 'take command of our future' 2:56

Jeb Bush launched his Republican presidential bid Monday, telling supporters he will "take command of our future" if elected, while changing Washington's direction on issues including foreign policy, the economy and the military. 

Six months after he said he was considering a bid for 2016, the 62-year-old former Florida governor formally entered the crowded race with a speech and rally near his Florida home at Miami Dade University, selected because it serves a large and diverse student body.

"Our country is on a very bad course, and the question is, what are we going to do about it?" he asked the cheering crowd. 

"The question is what am I going to do about it? And I've decided. I'm a candidate for president of the United States."

Bush's half-hour speech touted his record with education, jobs and the under-privileged, while taking aim at the Democrats, President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in particular, over such issues as health care and foreign relations with countries. 

We will take Washington … out of the business of causing problems.— Jeb Bush

Bush vowed to "rebuild the armed forces" after what he characterized as years of neglect by the Democrats.

He also pledged to deliver four per cent annual growth for the U.S. economy "and the 19 million jobs that come with it." 

"We will take Washington — the static capital of this dynamic country — out of the business of causing problems," Bush added.

Though he is the brother of one president and son of another, Bush described himself as an outsider and reformer — able to take on the "pampered elites" in Washington — while reaching out to female, Hispanic and lower-income voters.

The Hispanic vote has eluded Republicans for years. Only 27 per cent of Latinos supported candidate Mitt Romney in 2012 after he opposed comprehensive immigration reform and made comments seen as anti-immigrant. 

Responding to pro-immigration reform protesters who briefly interrupted his speech, Bush vowed to pass "meaningful immigration reform" as president. 

He also reminded supporters he married a Mexican, jokingly describing his courtship in the 1970s of his future wife, Columba, as "cross-border outreach." 

Bush addressed the crowd in English and Spanish, an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience. 

In Spanish he called on Latinos to "help us have a campaign that welcomes you." 

No true front-runner

Bush has likely raised a record-breaking amount of money to support his candidacy. But in early public opinion polls, he has yet to break out. While unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in the Republican race, there is no true front-runner.

Bush has made clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign, even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among his party's conservative base.

Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. But few among them entered the race with such a high expectations of success.

And yet, his family name is conspicuously absent from his campaign logo — it is simply "Jeb!" in red letters — and his return to politics since leaving the governor's office in 2007 has been underwhelming at times. 

While detailed policy questions are often his strength, he struggled for several days last month to answer a predictable question about the war in Iraq waged by his brother, former president George W. Bush.

In his speech Monday, Bush made the case that those involved in creating Washington's problems can't fix them, an apparent jab at senators in his own party, including his political protégé Marco Rubio, who is also seeking the presidential nomination and Hispanic votes. 

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush waves as he takes the stage to formally join the race for president on Monday at Miami Dade College. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

With files from Associated Press, Reuters

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