Jeb Bush Says "I'm Running For President" By Accident During A Speech & Furiously Backtracks — VIDEO

In an apparent slip of the tongue that has surprised no one, Jeb Bush accidentally said "I'm running for president" in a conversation with reporters on Wednesday, before backtracking. “I'm running for president in 2016, and the focus is going to be about how we, if I run, how do you create high sustained economic growth,” Bush told a media scrum in Reno, Nevada, in an exchange that was caught on video. The “if I run,” seemed a belated attempt to cover up his mistake — since the former Florida governor has not yet officially launched his campaign, despite acknowledging he would “actively explore” the possibility of a presidential run in December.

Earlier in the conversation, Bush had stressed that he was not yet officially in the race. “No, no I'm not an official candidate. I've been traveling the country for the last three months and making up my mind, trying to determine the support I may have should I go forward,” he said, as recorded in a transcript of the event given to Reuters by a Bush aide. Despite being an assumed Republican contender for the keys to the White House, Bush’s drawn out “decision period” before becoming a candidate is not simply a matter of terminology.

Campaign finance rules are such that before officially announcing his candidacy, Bush is able to directly request funding for the Right to Rise super PAC that supports his candidacy. Once he announces, he will be prohibited from directly soliciting funds for the outside group, or coordinating its message with that of his campaign. He will have to instead abide by the “hard money” rules that stipulate primary donations must be capped at $2,700 per individual. In this simple financial equation, Bush has chosen to extend the period in which he can raise unlimited funds for his super PAC, exploiting a legal loophole.

This means that Bush’s statement on camera Wednesday was more than just a gaffe — it was an error that contains potential legal ramifications. But a Bush adviser told CNN’s Dana Bash that they believe they’re still in the clear, legality-wise, and that Bush’s quickly brushed aside comment can’t be received as an official declaration. The Federal Election Commission (which is charged with enforcing campaign finance rules) has declined to comment on the incident.

But while Bush skips around the subject, he has been doubling down on his financing efforts. MSNBC reports that he has made at least 47 appearances on behalf of Right to Rise since January. He recently told donors that the super PAC had raised more money in its first 100 days (an estimated $100 million) than any other Republican operation. Politico has called Right to Rise a super PAC that is “unprecedented in its size and scope,” in an article that predicted the Bush candidacy announcement would be eventually made in mid-June.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If that prediction is correct, then the Bush announcement shouldn’t be expected any time soon. “[U]ntil he says the magic words ‘I’m running for president,’ he can raise as much money as he wants,” Bill Allison, a senior fellow at the Sunlight Foundation (a non-partisan group that campaigns for political transparency) told MSNBC. “He’s really using the super PAC like we’ve never seen before.”

Bush looks in no hurry to accept that he’s made an important announcement. “He's going to say it was a slip of the tongue, but that's absolute nonsense at this point,” Larry Noble, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, told Reuters. Noble added that his organization had complained about Bush’s strategy to federal election officials, maintaining that since Bush is clearly running, he should follow fundraising rules.

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The American Democracy Legal Fund also filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission this week over Bush’s finances. “[I]t is clear this is the mechanism [Bush] is using to escape campaign finance law and he needs to be held accountable for it,” a spokesman for the group told MSNBC. “On what planet do we need $10, $20, $30 million for someone who is just thinking about running?”

Bush, thanks to his family connections and political background, already has an extensive donor network. Having initially imposed a $1 million cap on donations to Right To Rise, in a bid to appear less at the behest of mega-donors, Bush has allegedly now lifted that restriction — according to an unnamed source that spoke with Politico. Fred Malek, a prominent GOP donor and chair of the Republican Governors Association’s finance committee, told the publication that Right to Rise would be an invaluable asset. “It’s an advantage. No question,” he said. “I think Bush will be able to raise three or four times as much as anyone else [in the Republican field].”

All of which makes it oddly fitting that Bush’s Wednesday slip-up came as he set out his plan for “high sustained economic growth.”

Images: Post TV, Washington Post; Getty Images (2)