Jeb Bush made his formal announcement of his candidacy for the presidency today adding one more name to the long list of Republican contenders for the office. I don’t think that there is a lot of excitement for the prospect of another president from the House of Bush among the rank and file of the Republican Party, but he seems to be popular with the big spending party elite who despise the rank and file, mostly because he is from the House of Bush. Jason Russell of the Washington Examiner believes that Jeb Bush will be the next president. Well, that makes one of us. He gives five reasons for this belief.
1. Bush is seeking to grow the Republican Party.
Rather than trying to expand his support among conservative voters, Bush is trying to make inroads with moderate, swing voters. For example, when I’ve heard Bush talk about his education reforms in Florida, he doesn’t just give conservative talking points about expanding families’ freedom to choose the school that’s best for them. He explains how successful the reforms have been in making Florida’s Hispanic, black and low-income students outscore students in other states.
Bush is a true Big Tent Republican. He generally doesn’t attack other Republicans, and when he attacks Democrats, he generally avoids the outraged tone that other GOP candidates employ. This will be an attractive feature to the growing share of voters who are fed up with the politics of perpetual outrage. Conservative voters likely won’t like his moderate approach to immigration or his support for Common Core. But Bush isn’t flip-flopping on those issues; instead, he is working to convince conservatives of his positions while taking his message to moderate voters.
Bush will win because he can appeal to moderate voters. It seems to me that I have heard this before, with McCain and Romney, not to mention Dole and the previous Bushes. The problem with this strategy is that alienating the conservative base in order to attract moderates simply doesn’t work. How many elections do the Republicans have to lose before their strategists understand this? And, it is not as if the mainstream media will ever describe any Republican as a centrist once the primaries are over. Any Republican will be blasted as a far right-wing wacko no matter how moderate and wishy-washy he may be. Any Democrat will be hailed as a responsible, pragmatic centrist no matter how much of a left-wing loon he may be. Since that will always be the case, we ought to nominate a conservative who at least will get the base out to vote.
2. He’s already in the lead.
Bush leads the RealClearPolitics polling average(although Scott Walker and Marco Rubio are very close behind). His drive to attract moderate voters will expand his base of support. Few others are competing for the same voters, leaving Bush nowhere to go but up.
After a shake-up in the management of his campaign even before it launches, many have suggested that Bush’s campaign is faltering. I’m reminded of July 2007, when John McCain’s campaign manager and chief strategist left. The entire campaign was downsized. In the end, McCain’s shake-up was worse than Bush’s, and things turned out okay for McCain. Surely Bush can do the same, if not better.
Except that John McCain lost to Barack Obama. McCain had support from the same sort of people who now support Bush and for much the same reason. John McCain was willing to take on the conservatives in his own party. The mainstream media loved him, until the primaries were over and he was running against Obama. I can foresee something similar happening with Jeb Bush.
3. Other Republicans are shifting to the right.
At one point in the last few months I thought Walker had the best chance of winning the nomination. Then he showed what kind of voters he was trying to attract by taking ultra-conservative positions on national policy issues. Very conservative voters were already impressed by Walker’s record of standing up to intense union opposition, and many would have supported him anyway. By shifting to the right on immigration, foreign policy and social issues, Walker has made himself look more conservative and less attractive to voters who weren’t already inclined to support him.
With other Republicans moving rightward, there’s a vacuum in the middle of the electorate — one that Bush is well-placed to fill.
And just who is inclined to support Jeb Bush? The people in the middle are the most likely to be apathetic, not caring about politics either way. The candidate who excites the people in his base to turn out and vote is the one who is going to win, and that candidate is generally the one who takes firm stands and is willing to fight. A candidate who stands in the mushy middle, trying to be all things to all people is not going to excite anyone.
4. Hillary Clinton is shifting to the left.
Clinton started the campaign with an unprecedented lead against her competitors. With the Democratic nomination all but sealed, it would only make sense for her to stay in the ideological center so as not to scare away moderate general election voters. Instead, Clinton has done the opposite, championing left-wing causes like debt-free college and automatic voter registration.
The New York Times’ David Brooks has called Clinton’s campaign strategy a “mistake” and bad for the country. Meanwhile, Brooks wrote, “Jeb Bush is trying to expand his party’s reach.” With Clinton abandoning independent voters, Bush’s reach into the middle will go uncontested from the left, leaving Bush an opportunity to gain support.
The mainstream media will never concede that Hilary Clinton, or any other Democratic candidate has moved to the left. As far as they are concerned, Bernie Sanders is firmly in the middle. In fact, I believe that Clinton is doing the right thing by trying to recapture some of the excitement that propelled Barack Obama into the White House. She is not likely to succeed because she is just not as exciting as Obama, but trying to stay in the ideological center wouldn’t help her all that much either.
5. No, Jeb doesn’t have a “Bush” problem.
George H.W. Bush failed to win re-election in 1992. I’m sure some pundits must have thought the Bush family name would be tainted forever due to his unpopularity. But Bush’s son won the presidency just eight years later, and was re-elected with more support than in his initial election. Today, George W. Bush’s favorable ratings are above 50 percent, which is more than President Obama and Hillary Clinton can say about theirs.
Hillary’s Obama problem is worse than Jeb’s Bush problem.
The Democratic candidate, no matter who it is, is going to be tied to Obama’s approval rating. Hillary Clinton will be especially tied to his foreign policy, having served as his secretary of state. The ongoing situation in Ukraine will cause her a lot of problems, given her “reset button” stunt.
None of this is an endorsement of Bush or his ideological positions — it’s a simple prediction based on research and the way campaign strategies seem to be developing. If Clinton changes her campaign strategy, or Rubio or Walker start to tailor their messages to moderate voters, Bush will have even more of a challenge.
Nobody knows for sure who will take the oath of office on Jan. 20th, 2017, but I’m getting my prediction in early: Expect John Ellis Bush to be standing on the inaugural stage.
Yes he does have a Bush problem. I have thought that George W. Bush was a better president than has been generally recognized. I wouldn’t number him among the best presidents but he certainly wasn’t the abject failure that his enemies have asserted. I think that over time, as the passions generated by his presidency recede into the past, Bush will be more favorably viewed by historians and the public, rather like Harry S. Truman who was very unpopular when he left the office but has steadily been viewed more favorably over time. That said, I think the main reason that George W. Bush looks better now, aside from the fact that Obama makes anyone look good, is that he has stayed out of the public eye. If Jeb Bush is the nominee, the Democratic candidate, probably Hilary Clinton, will be doing her best to remind voters why they disliked George W. Bush at the end of his administration. The media will be doing everything it canto help her while covering up everything unsavory voters remember about her husband’s administration. Aside from his Bush problem, Jeb Bush also has a Jeb problem. His last election was in 2002 and he hasn’t held any public office since his second term as governor of Florida ended in 2007. He just hasn’t been out there making headlines the way Scott Walker or Rand Paul has been doing. He seems to be reviving the theme of compassionate conservatism used by his brother back in 2000. Jeb is yesterday’s candidate and the Republican Party and especially the Tea Party faction have moved on, leaving him behind. I think that if Jeb is the Republican nominee, Hilary Clinton will be taking the oath of office in 2017.
- Jeb Bush Channels Brother’s “Compassionate Conservatism” (conservativeangle.com)
- Jeb Bush, seeking more distance from his brother, offers some rare criticism (ukprogressive.co.uk)
- Jeb Bush: Florida a must-win for Republican to take White House (bostonherald.com)