October 6, 2014


The Truth About Jeb Bush's Presidential Ambitions (Mark Halperin, 10/05/14, Bloomberg)

There is no doubt that Bush is significantly closer to running for President than he was four years ago. He isn't showing some leg to sell books or raise his speaking fees. He isn't worried about the mechanics of the race, such as who might be his New Hampshire campaign manager, or how best to deal with straw polls. His decision-making process is less about consultation than, as is typical for the former Florida governor, about introspection. Jeb Bush is grappling with the hardest of questions: Is he the right person to bring the Republican Party toward the center and govern a country that has proven stubbornly difficult to lead? In other words, is this, finally, his time?

Since the Reagan years, nearly every Republican Party presidential nominee has been the establishment favorite, raised the most money in the year before the election, and has been viewed by the Gang of 500 as the most formidable general election candidate. (The one exception: In 1996, Phil Gramm took in slightly more cash than Bob Dole, and Bill Clinton's team worried more about competing head-to-head with Lamar Alexander than they did the Bobster.)

There is uncharacteristic chaos right now in the Republican Party, which, for the first time in the modern era, is lacking a clear frontrunner at this stage of the presidential cycle. Given Hillary Clinton's strength and the GOP's complete failure since 2012 to improve its standing with the key elements of the Obama coalition of the ascendant--Hispanics, young voters, single women--the establishment is on the verge of a post-midterm panic about the unfilled vacuum.  Not one GOP sharpie I've talked to in the past six months has said with any confidence who their nominee will be, and most are either stumped or limp-throated when asked to venture a guess at the top tier. Pressed, they'll typically cough up Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Mitt Romney. A portion of that bunch would likely not get in the race if Bush decides to run. None of them combines Bush's fundraising capacity and his compelling case for general-election strength.

Until and unless grandmotherhood and other personal factors keep the Democratic frontrunner out of the contest, Republicans have to assume they are looking for a nominee who can take on a supremely daunting, uber-iconic Clinton.

While supporters of flashy candidates such as Paul and Rubio talk a good game about nomination muscle, national appeal, and anti-Clinton clout, Bush has walked the walk as the popular governor of electorally indispensable Florida and as a member of the most politically successful family in American history. Jeb (along with Romney) is likely the only contestant who could keep pace with the expected Clinton haul in excess of $1.5 billion. "The Republican donor base will fall in line" behind Bush, says one of the party's best and most experienced fundraisers. "There is no competition."

Nevermind that he's already successfully run a state with the GDP of The Netherlands, he's the candidate the religious can rally around and that's who the party is.

Posted by at October 6, 2014 3:40 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus