If He Really Runs, Jeb Bush Could Win the GOP Nomination

Where the former Florida governor stands in the GOP field.

In a Facebook post Tuesday morning, Jeb Bush announced that he's "decided to actively explore the possibility of running" for president. And the latest polls show he's in early position to win the Republican nomination—as long as Mitt Romney doesn't join the race.

The former Florida governor and the heir to the Bush presidential legacy has garnered attention in recent months for making moves toward a 2016 campaign. Though at first he seemed reticent to take up the mantle of his brother and father and put his publicity-averse family back in the spotlight, he's stayed near the top of polls of the GOP field, overshadowed only by Mitt Romney. With the former Massachusetts governor and twice-thwarted presidential candidate included in opinion polls, Bush often places second in a crowded list of Republican hopefuls: According to a Tuesday McClatchy-Marist poll, Bush has 14 percent support from likely voters to Romney's 19 percent.

But if Romney doesn't run, Bush leads the GOP pack—albeit by a slim margin. Tuesday's poll has him with 16 percent, four points ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and six ahead of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Per a November Quinnipiac poll, however, Jeb Bush's favorability splits are 33 percent favorable and 32 percent unfavorable. Romney has been under political watch for the greater part of the past decade. Bush, who hasn't held office since 2007, isn't as well known across the country, with 33 percent responding that they "haven't heard enough" about him to have an opinion. Those favorability numbers, then, have more room to change than Romney's, which are at 44 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable.

As for a general election, Bush fares slightly worse than he would in a primary. The Quinnipiac poll shows Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton topping him 46 percent to 41 percent, versus a near toss-up for Romney at 45 percent to Clinton's 44 percent, and a 1-point margin for Clinton against Christie at 43 percent to 42 percent.

But there's some divergent polling here. In a more recent Bloomberg Politics poll from the beginning of this month pitting GOP contenders against Clinton, numbers for Bush, Rand Paul, and Christie in a Clinton matchup are roughly equal, with Bush and Paul tied at 37 percent support and Christie at 36 percent. But Bush still lags behind Romney, who comes the closest to catching Clinton with 39 percent support to her 45 percent.

If Bush decides to advance from actively exploring a run to actively campaigning, he could have a real shot at the nomination. He'll just want to fix his spacebar first.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated findings from a Marist poll.

Stephanie Stamm contributed to this article