Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush entered the 2016 presidential campaign on Monday with a rally and speech at Miami Dade College, joining 10 other Republicans already in the race for the party's nomination.
"I'm a candidate for President of the United States of America," Bush told a spirited crowd at the college's Kendall campus. "I am ready to lead."
Six months after he got the 2016 campaign started by saying he was considering a bid, the 62-year-old former Florida governor formally entered the race at the college, an institution selected because it serves a large and diverse student body symbolic of the nation he seeks to lead.
Bush, whose wife is Mexican-born, addressed the packed college arena in English and Spanish, an unusual twist for a political speech aimed at a national audience.
"In any language," Bush said, "my message will be an optimistic one because I am certain that we can make the decades just ahead in America the greatest time ever to be alive in this world."
In his kickoff speech, he said Democrats are responsible for "the slowest economic recovery ever, the biggest debt increases ever, a massive tax increase on the middle class, the relentless buildup of the regulatory state, and the swift, mindless drawdown of a military that was generations in the making."
And in his speech, he took on critics in both parties, particularly Hillary Rodham Clinton, the overwhelming favorite in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
"The party now in the White House is planning a no-suspense primary, for a no-change election," Bush said. "The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next."
He also had an optimistic message for supporters.
"We will take command of our future once again in this country. We will lift our sights again, make opportunity common again, get events in the world moving our way again," Bush said. "We will take Washington - the static capital of this dynamic country - out of the business of causing problems."
But that optimism was interrupted by roughly a dozen protesters who stood up and chanted about immigration reform.
Once they were removed, Bush took aim at the struggling economy and joblessness, again asking voters to draw conclusions based on his two-term governorship.
"We made Florida number one in job creation and number one in small business creation, 1.3 million new jobs, 4.4 percent growth, higher family income, eight balanced budgets, and tax cuts eight years in a row that saved our people and businesses $19 billion," he said.
Before Monday's event, the Bush campaign unveiled a new logo that features his first name with an exclamation point — Jeb! — a branding decision that conspicuously leaves out the Bush surname.
Bush joins the crowded Republican campaign in some ways in a commanding position. The brother of one president and son of another, Bush has likely raised a record breaking amount of money to support his candidacy and conceived of a new approach on how to structure his campaign, both aimed at allowing him to make a deep run into the GOP primaries.
But on other measures, early public opinion polls among them, he has yet to break out. While unquestionably one of the top-tier candidates in the GOP race, he is also only one of several in a capable Republican field that does not have a true front-runner.
In the past six months, Bush has made clear he will remain committed to his core beliefs in the campaign to come — even if his positions on immigration and education standards are deeply unpopular among the conservative base of the party that plays an outsized role in the GOP primaries.
"I'm not going to change who I am," Bush said as he wrapped up a week-long European trip this weekend. "I respect people who may not agree with me, but I'm not going to change my views because today someone has a view that's different."
Bush is one of 11 major Republicans in the hunt for the nomination. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are among those still deciding whether to join a field that could end up just shy of 20.
Bush's team acknowledges the political challenges ahead, but dismisses critics who decry a recent staffing shift as proof of a nascent campaign already in crisis. Just as his strengths are exaggerated, they say, so are his weaknesses.
"Gov. Bush recognizes, and he's going to highlight on Monday, the fact that he needs to earn every vote — and he's going to take nothing and nobody for granted," campaign spokesman Tim Miller said.
Indeed, Bush's team is about to get more aggressive. In his speech Monday, Bush plans to make the case that those involved in creating Washington's problems can't fix them. The point is designed to jab Republican senators — one of them his political protégé in Florida, Marco Rubio — who are also seeking the presidential nomination.
Rubio went another way on Monday.
"In politics, people throw around the word 'friend' so much it often has little real meaning. This is not one of those times," Rubio said in a statement released by his campaign. "When I call Jeb Bush my friend, I mean he is someone I like, care for and respect. ...He is a passionate advocate for what he believes, and I welcome him to the race."
And Bush's fundraising operation is not slowing down.
After touring four early-voting states, Bush quickly launches a private fundraising tour with stops in at least 11 cities before the end of the month. Two events alone — a reception at Union Station in Washington on Friday and a breakfast the following week on Seventh Avenue in New York — will account for almost $2 million in new campaign cash, according to invitations that list more than 75 already committed donors.
Even though the former governor has been out of politics for nearly a decade, he offered confidence Monday.
“I will take nothing and no one for granted. I will run with heart. I will run to win," Bush said.