It is fair to say that if his last name were not Bush, he would have been the consensus choice for president in 2012. Jeb Bush says that he isn’t running, and unless the current field collapses (always possible) and he can be dragged into the race he is not going to be the nominee this time around. However, he can tell Republicans a lot about what sort of candidate they should look for.
He does not represent a particular faction or region. He appeals to many constituent groups, but he does not identify with one or the other. He is unifying, not divisive within the party.
He is easy on the ears. Not every sentence ends with an exclamation mark. He does not insult or rant; he speaks as if he is having a conversation with voters. He wears well.
His ideas are revolutionary, but he is no radical. He wants to reform government, not blow it up. He’s interested in the substance of governing and can talk intelligently on a variety of issues with a level of specificity uncommon among politicians.
He appeals beyond the stereotypical Republican and has set forth a responsible position on immigration that eschews hot-button rhetoric. He has been elected in a politically and ethnically diverse state.
In other words, he is Chris Christie without the bombasts, Paul Ryan with the executive experience, Rudy Giuliani without the operatic drama, Mitch Daniels with charm and Haley Barbour without the accent.
As for the current crop of GOP presidential contenders, they seem more programmed and less thoughtful than Jeb Bush. They shout too much and say too little. They seem too angry and too slick.
Now, we know that candidates can get better in the course of a campaign. They become more fluent in the issues and more comfortable in their own skin. They have opportunities to show grace, thoughtfulness and boldness. So we can hope that one or more emerge from the pack that measure up on the Jeb Bush standard. And if after a month or so none of them really do, the party might want to go looking for someone who does.