After being promoted for months by supporters as a frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, Jeb Bush is now polling like one.
In a CNN/ORC survey released Sunday, 23% of Republican respondents said they backed Bush, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in second place at 13%, neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 7%, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee each tied at 6%. The Democratic side looks far less competitive, with the poll finding 66% of Democratic respondents favored Hillary Clinton as their nominee versus just 9% who backed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 8% who backed Vice President Joe Biden and 3% who supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The poll comes less than two weeks after Bush announced he would “actively explore” a presidential run, a bold early move that could help him consolidate support from party leaders and financiers before potential rivals declare their own campaigns.
Bush’s bump comes during a period in which he has essentially had the floor to himself in terms of courting GOP voters. No other top-tier candidate has declared they were moving close to a run this month, although Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio got into a high-profile spat over the United States' move to normalize relations with Cuba that may have been a preview of future 2016 debates.
Bush faces serious challenges moving forward, however, including deep bipartisan unease with his brother George W. Bush’s unpopular presidency, a tea party backlash to Common Core education standards he’s championed, and conservative opposition to his immigration reform proposals, which would grant legal status to many undocumented immigrants.
Earlier this month, Bush announced he would release 250,000 emails from his times as governor, however news organizations preempted the move by acquiring them through records requests this week and a Democratic super PAC, American Bridge, posted them online. Despite being both praised and criticized as a centrist candidate, Bush was widely considered a conservative governor, especially on social issues where he led the charge to prevent Florida resident Michael Schiavo from removing his wife Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube after years in an unresponsive vegetative state.