jeb bush

Story highlights

Sources close to Jeb Bush say that the former governor is not worried about a primary fight

Those same sources say Bush is concerned about the toll a bid would put on him family

Washington CNN  — 

Multiple sources close to Jeb Bush say the former Florida governor’s recent public appearances in which, he seems to be thinking out loud about a possible presidential run are actually very similar to the private discussions he is having with friends and colleagues.

“The public conversation is what he has been saying to us. He is honestly struggling with this decision,” says a source familiar with the process, who argues it is “real,” unlike some other GOP contenders who have decided to run, but won’t say so. “He’s doing this in a thoughtful way, and he hasn’t made up his mind.”

And while Bush, as a potential presidential candidate, if often critiqued as someone out of touch with his own party, another source claims that consideration is not a part of the Bush equation. “He doesn’t worry about whether he’s in tune with his party,” this source says. “He knows what he believes.” Indeed, adds another source, “he would fully expect and welcome a fight.”

In fact, in his recent appearance before a Wall Street Journal CEO Council event, Bush mused that the GOP nominee needs to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general (election) without violating your principles.”

That’s a not-so-veiled reference to what many believe occurred in Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, and recognition of Bush’s own problems with the base of his party, which has balked at his stands on both immigration reform and the common core education standards for schools.

Sources also say that while Bush has said he will decide in “short order” — perhaps sometime early in the New Year — a decision will likely not come in a major announcement.

Instead, one source says, “he could send some signals.” In campaign parlance, that could mean the hiring of staff, forming an exploratory committee or formally soliciting money. Or simply say he’s leaning towards a run or against it.

While top Bush advisers have been gathering data on what a run would entail, no commitments have been made or asked of potential staff or supporters, one source says. Rather, the conversations have been “if he decides to run would you talk further with us,” this source says.

On the personal side, Bush’s concerns seem twofold according to multiple sources. First, as one puts it “how can I best protect my family?”

In the WSJ forum, Bush himself put it this way: “Can I do it where the sacrifice for my family is tolerable … it’s a pretty ugly business right now,” he said. “There’s a level under which I would never subjugate my family because that’s my organizing principle. That’s my life. I think people kind of appreciate that. So, I’m sorting that out.”

Second, another source adds, Bush is concerned, as he has said previously, that a campaign ought to be “joyful and full of value.” Translation: Bush needs to make sure he is willing to campaign daily for two years because of his love for country, party and commitment to the his issue set — immigration and education reform, tax changes, energy policy, regulatory policy.

It’s also clear that Bush is weighing the strain of daily campaign in a 24/7 media cycle in which everything he says will be relentlessly scrutinized.

In his appearance before the WSJ conference, he made several telling asides about being “fact-checked” as if to underscore the media spotlight — and fishbowl life — that accompanies a presidential candidacy.

What Bush is clearly not shying away from is any engagement on the issues. At the WSJ forum, Bush said congressional Republicans need to lead without grandstanding. “We don’t have to make a point any more as Republicans,” Bush told the CEO-filled audience. “… We have to actually show that we can, in an adult-like way, we can govern, lead.”