Jeb Bush and a Run at the Presidency

There has been widespread media coverage on whether or not Jeb Bush will make a run for the presidency in 2016. Chris Cilliza from the Washington Post reports.

Jeb Bush is more likely than not to run for president in 2016, according to a somewhat garbled quote over the weekend from his son George P. Bush, who is running for land commissioner this fall.  But just because Bush is — or at least might be — running doesn’t mean he will win. In fact, even calling Jeb the frontrunner is a drastic overstatement.

“The 2016 field is wide open for business [and] while Governor Bush will be a formidable competitor, he will not clear the field nor have an insurmountable lead,” said Dave Carney, a New Hampshire Republican consultant who served as a senior adviser to Rick Perry’s 2012 campaign.

So what are some of the important factors according to Cilliza?

1. Polling.  This is the most obvious way to debunk the idea that the nomination would be Bush’s for the asking. In a field with Mitt Romney, Bush would place second — 10 points behind the 2008 and 2012 candidate — in a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll on the 2016 GOP field.  Take Romney out — since he’s almost certainly not running — and Jeb does place first with 15 percent. But Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul takes 12 percent and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is at 11 percent — not to mention a slew of other potential in the high single digits.  So yes, Jeb is the “leader” in that poll, but some large chunk of that support, at least at this point in the race, is dependent on the that people know his name.

I’m not sure that too much can be read into these polls at this very early stage. Furthermore frequently the early frontrunners don’t actually become the nominee.

2. Common Core + immigration reform. Bush is on the wrong side — or at least, on the side opposite the party base — on both of these issues. On Common Core, a series of nationalized education standards, conservatives — including people like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal who will likely run for president in 2016 — have condemned it as a classic case of the federal government thinking it knows best. Bush, on the other hand, has been vocally supportive of Common Core — insisting that while it is not a perfect system, it is necessary to ensure American children can compete against children from around the world.

Bush will need conservatives to be motivated to support and actually go and vote for him if he’s the GOP nominee. Supporting Common Core certainly isn’t going to endear him to conservatives, the same applies to his current stance on immigration.

3. Tone.  It’s not only — per point No. 2 above — that Jeb is out of step with the Republican base (and many of the people he would run against) on two big issues. It’s his overall tone and approach to issues and politics that will hurt him, said one senior Republican consultant who has worked at the presidential level in the past but is not aligned with any candidate for 2016.  “I think his problem isn’t so much specific issues, it’s his approach to how he discusses them,” said the source. “It shows how out of touch he is with the grass roots.

So what about the that he’s part of the Bush clan?

4. The dynasty thing. Yes, I realize the irony of including this point in a piece that accepts the idea of Hillary Clinton as the default Democratic nominee. But unlike Clinton, Bush would face real and serious opposition for the nomination if he ran. And that means that the idea that he is part of the past and his opponents are part of the future could be potentially damaging to his chances. “The sense I get from just ordinary folks is, ‘enough with the Bushes,’ ”  said one Republican consultant unaffiliated in the presidential contest. “Hell, even Barbara Bush herself said that!” If Jeb runs, he will need to come up with a smart response to the attack that by nominating him Republicans would forfeit one of their best hits on Hillary Clinton — that she is simply old news.

What will get thrown back at him in both the primaries and especially in the general election is the argument that neither Bush I and II had great records in economic management. Also the comment by Barbara Bush is very pertinent. A younger candidate would bring different advantages in the general election in 2016. Both McCain and Romney were big targets for the Democrats simply because they’d already had long careers.

[UPDATE]: Information on Common Core standards can be found here

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