June 10, 2014

ONE FLYING OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST:

Jeb Bush and the Three Amigos Path to the Presidency (Francis Wilkinson, 6/09/14, Bloomberg View)

By entering the presidential race, Bush would be a spokesman for sane conservatism, but he would also be another force pushing against the party's contraction. His deliberately provocative comments on immigrants -- in which he described crossing the border as an "act of love" -- alienates him from the rank and file. And his refusal to walk away from his support for the Common Core education reforms won't help win those voters back. But by establishing himself as a Chamber of Commerce candidate who refuses to kowtow to the Cruz wing, he can help loosen the straitjacket that keeps Republican politics and policy so dangerously restricted.

That straitjacket strangled the 2012 Republican field. Texas Governor Rick Perry was clobbered for expressing empathy toward undocumented immigrants. Eventual nominee Mitt Romney spent the primary trumpeting his managerial superiority while insisting on his ideological fraternity with his opponents, right-wing loons included.

But imagine a 2016 presidential primary that includes the quirky Paul, the straddling Rubio and the defiantly establishment yet Hispanic-friendly Bush. The party would be stretched instead of constricted. The opportunities for policy entrepreneurship would grow along with the chances of a conservative politics based on something more broadly appealing than unremitting anger.

The danger, of course, is that Cruz would dominate the angry base vote while the three relative innovators competed over the party's less-energized remainder. By splitting the libertarian and mainstream conservative vote, the three amigos might deliver the nomination to Cruz. The Texan, however, will no doubt face competition of his own, even if it's from flavor-of-the-moment candidates such as the former surgeon Ben Carson.

Besides, for Bush, the risk is worth taking. Paul's appeal may be sufficiently idiosyncratic to power him to the end of the race, but not to victory. Either Rubio or Bush, however, would probably have to drop out without early primary victories and, of the two, Bush seems better suited to prevail. Ideally, once some ideological breathing space had been secured, whichever of the two is left standing could find a path to victory without having to endure Romneyesque contortions.
Posted by at June 10, 2014 3:40 PM
  
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