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Why new Jeb Bush 2016 hint may really indicate he's running

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LM Otero/AP/File

(Read caption) George P. Bush (r.) reacts as his dad, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), gives a fist pump during an interview in Abilene, Texas. The younger Bush said in an interview with ABC's 'This Week' Sunday that his dad is 'moving forward' on a potential 2016 White House run.

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It’s looking more likely than ever that Jeb Bush will run for president in 2016.

Supporters of the former Florida governor have said for months that Jeb is seriously considering a White House bid. And on Sunday we got the hardest bit of evidence yet that Bush may jump in: His son, George P. Bush, told ABC’s “This Week” that dad is giving “serious thought” to running.

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“If you had asked me a few years back, I would have said it was less likely,” said the younger Bush, who is himself running for land commissioner in Texas.

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True, this isn’t close to a definitive statement. The serious-thought-to-running formulation is the way Jeb Bush himself has been talking about the White House for some time. Jeb has come across as truly reticent about the demands of a campaign. While he’s out campaigning for GOP candidates prior to the 2014 midterms, he hasn’t been nearly as ubiquitous as, say, Hillary and Bill Clinton.

But time is rushing onward. We’re reaching the stage in the 2016 invisible primary where it’s time for Bush to start damping down his supporters’ enthusiasm if he’s leaning towards no-go.

After all, one of the main purposes of signaling you might run is to keep party donors and campaign workers from committing to other candidates. Those folks may feel cheated if they wait too long and Bush never gets on the bus. This could spread ill-will towards Jeb in particular and the Bush family in general.

Plus, 2016 might be Jeb’s best shot. The establishment wing of the Republican Party doesn’t yet have an obvious champion – hence all the talk about resurrecting the Mitt Romney candidacy. Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic candidate, which could cancel out the family dynasty issue in a general election.

“Democrats have been ‘ready for Hillary’ since the day Obama won re-election. Now, even George P. Bush’s statement on Sunday, Republicans have to start asking themselves whether they’re ready for Jeb,” writes Tom Bevan, co-founder and executive editor of RealClearPolitics.

That said, Bush faces obvious hurdles to winning the Republican nomination. He’s to the left of much his party on immigration. He has supported Common Core educational standards, which are anathema to many conservatives in the GOP. In 2012, he indicated he would consider supporting a national fiscal package that included tax hikes, if it also had substantial budget reductions. If there’s anything that unites Republican factions, it’s opposition to increased taxes under virtually all circumstances.

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Given all this, it’s clear he’d face substantial opposition within his own party.

“Woke up hoping this Jeb Bush stuff was just a dream,“ tweeted Mollie Hemingway, senior editor at the right-leaning publication The Federalist, on Monday morning.