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Jeb Bush To 'Actively Explore' 2016 Run For President


We are entering the period when conflicts inside this country's two big political parties are more interesting than the conflicts between them. Upcoming presidential primaries highlight those divisions. The field of candidates is just beginning to take shape after Jeb Bush said on Facebook he is actively exploring a run. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson is with us. Hi, Mara.


INSKEEP: How does Bush' move change things?

LIASSON: Well, I think it's a big move. You know, the Republican primary field is very large - maybe 20 candidates. It's wide open. There's no front-runner in the polls or heir apparent, but there is a first among equals. And that's Jeb Bush, because I think he instantly freezes the money primary. I think it's possible that the establishment wing of the party can coalesce around him and it makes it a lot harder for people like Marco Rubio - also from Florida - Chris Christie, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, all those other establishment governors who want to run for president to raise money.

Now that being said, his announcement certainly didn't have a field-clearing effect. On Capitol Hill, Republican members weren't instantly rallying around him. His announcement did get a lot of pushback from conservatives. And he's been very clear that he wasn't going to change his position on issues where he's at odds with the conservative base of his party, like immigration reform or Common Core educational standards.


LIASSON: But he is poised to be the leading establishment candidate.

INSKEEP: OK, you just said establishment candidate. You also talked about the conservative wing of the party. What is the divide then between - inside the Republican Party right now?

LIASSON: Well, you know, if Jeb Bush is the leader of the establishment wing, there's a big competition going on for the support of the anti-establishment Tea Party wing. You've got Rand Paul, who has a head-start on organizing a grassroots operation in Iowa and New Hampshire. There are outsiders like Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum. And then there's Ted Cruz, who recently made a lot of his Senate colleagues angry with an unsuccessful effort to stop the president's moves on immigration. Cruz was playing to that conservative rank and file base, trying to harness what really is a big new surge of anti-establishment Tea Party energy in the Republican Party.

INSKEEP: Another surge of anti-establishment energy you're saying?

LIASSON: Yes, another surge.

INSKEEP: OK, so what's the divide among Democrats then?

LIASSON: Well, I think the divide among Democrats isn't as deep or philosophical as the divide among Republicans, but there's also a new surge of populist energy in the Democratic Party. And on Monday, you interviewed Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. She is the leader now of the left wing of the Democratic Party. She's been given a post in party leadership. But she told you that that will not keep her from challenging party leaders.


SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN: I am glad to be in leadership. I am grateful to have a place at the table. But my priorities haven't changed. I'm going to stand up and fight for what I believe in.

INSKEEP: Although you say the divide is not as philosophical on the Democratic side, so how is it exactly that Elizabeth Warren is challenging party leaders, Mara?

LIASSON: Well, I think the energy in the Democratic Party is around an opposition to big banks, to Wall Street. It's the mirror image really of what's happening in the anti-big government side on the Republican Party. She led the charge to stop a provision that would weaken the Dodd-Frank bill and the omnibus bill. She's angry that the administration is appointing too many people from Wall Street to administration posts. And she's going to be pushing the party to the left over the next two years.

INSKEEP: Are these divides in the end in each party more over style than substance?

LIASSON: Well, that remains to be seen. I think there are substantive differences. I think you'll see substantive differences on the Democratic side next year on trade, on the Keystone pipeline, maybe on Iran sanctions. The big question is whether those splits will undermine the Democrats' unity and prevent them from upholding President Obama's vetoes next year. The White House is confident that they are mostly differences about tactics not substance, and on the big issues, the party will stay together.

INSKEEP: And on the...

LIASSON: And on the Republican side, much deeper splits.

INSKEEP: On immigration among other things?

LIASSON: On immigration - the Republicans are very, very divided on Common Core. And I think that those splits are more substantive.

INSKEEP: Mara, thanks as always.

LIASSON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson this morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.
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