January 10, 2015


Bush blasts off : The Republican's 2016 moves put pressure on rivals, energize vaunted family network. (TODD S. PURDUM 1/8/15, Politico)

"His announcement didn't just light up the wires," said Mark McKinnon, the longtime political consultant and Bush family friend. "It torched 'em."

In part because he is perceived as a proud pragmatist and sometime moderate in a party that has grown increasingly conservative, Jeb Bush does not possess the power to effectively clear the field and lock up the GOP establishment that his brother, former President George W. Bush, did in the run-up to his 2000 campaign. But Jeb Bush does have the immediate ability to tap the resources, expertise, loyalty and sharply honed political skills of the extended network of friends and advisers that has made his family a force in national life for more than 40 years - a network that originally dates to his mother Barbara's voluminous Christmas card list.

In just one small sign of that network's breadth, on Wednesday, Bush was shepherded to a meet-and-greet with influential New Yorkers at the KKR & Co. leveraged buyout firm by no less a GOP stalwart than Ken Mehlman, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Mark Wallace, his first "body man" as Florida governor who later served in several senior posts in the second Bush administration. Associates confirmed that Bush has tapped Sal Purpura -- a veteran campaign finance compliance expert and longtime confidant dating to his volunteer work on Bush's first gubernatorial campaign in 1994 -- as the assistant treasurer of his leadership PAC.

Bush's allies, meanwhile, have launched a super PAC with the same name as the leadership PAC -- the "Right to Rise" -- that can accept and spend unlimited amounts, and which is already soliciting donations. The name is borrowed from a phrase popularized by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and connotes a commitment to economic freedom as the key to opportunity. But it also suggests that even a Republican who occasionally strays from his party's orthodoxies has a place in the debate.

"To the extent there was any hesitation on the part of his prospective supporters," McKinnon said, "it was driven very much by perceived hesitation on his part. By throwing down the gauntlet so forcefully, Jeb has instantly galvanized the extensive Bush network. By being first to market, he is scooping up financial support from those who may have gone another direction had he waited. And, most importantly, it demonstrates the most important thing a successful president must have: fire in the belly." [...]

A 2016 bid would be Bush's first national campaign, but hardly his first rodeo, as the deliberate and sure-footed nature of his early moves suggests.

On New Year's Eve, as if making a clean start, his team confirmed that he had stepped down from all of his private-sector and non-profit board memberships, lest any pose even perceived conflicts of interest with a campaign. He and his wife, Columba, donated $10,000 to a fund for the families of the two New York City police officers murdered in their patrol car last month. This week, aides let it be known that Bush was prepared to release a decade or more of personal income tax returns - a move intended to neutralize what turned out to be a nagging vulnerability for the last GOP presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, who finally released just two years of returns in the face of intense pressure from even some Republicans to be more open about his wealth.

"In his career, he has always been on offense," the longtime Bush associate said. "When he ran in 1998, he ran on Democratic issues and won on them, education particularly. He always grabs the situation, has a smart plan and goes forward relentlessly. I think some of the people in the conventional wisdom world of politics were caught unawares by this."

Someone will stay in and snipe about him being too appealing to Latinos to be a genuine man of the right, but the rest of them may as well quit now. 

Posted by at January 10, 2015 12:24 PM

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