Jeb Bush accidentally said he was running for president on Wednesday, a move that would trigger major restrictions on his fundraising, before quickly correcting himself.
“I’m running for president in 2016 and the focus is going to be on how we -- if I run -- how we create high sustained economic growth where more people have a chance to earn success,” the Republican told reporters in Nevada.
It was a slip from Bush's usual language, which typically refer to his plans if he goes "beyond the consideration" and takes the plunge.
Bush spoke late Wednesday to the Clark County GOP dinner in Las Vegas -- offering what has become a standard speech for his non-campaign appearances in early states. He didn't address the controversy over his recent Iraq War comments, nor did he mention his brother, George W. Bush, though he discussed his parents. He also didn't mention his comments from earlier Wednesday when he seemed to say he was running. "I am not a candidate," he said at one point during the speech.
Bush is one of many 2016 prospects exploring a presidential run who have taken care not to announce their candidacy – others include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Perry also slipped up and referred to himself as a “candidate” in March.
Thanks to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and related cases relaxing campaign finance laws, there’s a lot to gain from staying in this limbo – even if it’s obvious a politician is running already. So long as they’re not officially a candidate or openly exploring a run, politicians can raise unlimited funds for super PACs like Bush’s Right to Rise PAC. Once they declare, they will no longer be able to coordinate with their PACs and instead will have to raise restricted donations topping out at $2,700 per person in the primaries.
Critics argue this loophole has gotten out of control. The Campaign Legal Center, a campaign finance watchdog, filed a complaint in March with the Federal Elections Commission, which is in charge of enforcing election laws, to crack down on non-candidates who have all the trappings of a presidential contender. But the FEC is deadlocked along partisan lines, with Republicans favoring a loose interpretation of finance laws and Democrats favoring a tougher one, and its chairwoman, Democratic appointee Ann Ravel, has openly stated that it’s unable to carry out much enforcement as a result.
“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” Ravel told The New York Times this month. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”
Msnbc's Kasie Hunt contributed reporting from Las Vegas.