Speculating on the potential presidential run in 2016 of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, the Wall Street Journal pronounces: “Few insiders expect that [Sen. Marco] Rubio would run against his longtime mentor. Others speculate that a Bush candidacy could dry up the donor base that other centrist Republicans, such as [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, would need. A Bush run wouldn’t likely preclude a [Louisiana Gov. Bobby] Jindal candidacy.” Sorry, but that unsourced speculation is largely hogwash. Christie has his own formidable base of support as do other candidates. And if Rubio is going to be chased out of the race because someone who helped his career is running too, he might rethink his presidential ambitions.
However, Bush’s candidacy would mean that an array of issues the GOP must address are forced to the forefront, and given voice by an experienced, sober contender. The desire for a savvy grown-up who is not from the same ideological mold as every other candidate is one reason why so many conservatives hope he at least enters the race. There is something to be said for someone who, to borrow from Casey Stengel, can play this game.
Not only on immigration but also on education, trade and upward mobility, Bush would drive the debate, make arguments Republicans need to have and help present a more constructive and optimistic GOP vision. This interview suggests some of his strengths.
Bush is a man comfortable in his own skin who is not seeking to castigate Americans or bemoan our moral decay. (We might be decaying, but whining about it gets old real fast.) We are reminded that Bush’s rhetoric is far less angry, bombastic and strident than many Republicans these days. If nothing else he would present an alternative tone and personal style that, frankly, has been missing from recent GOP presidential races in which either dogmatic right wingers or emotionally distant candidates have dominated.
Running for president is no small matter, but a widely known figure like Bush could arguably shorten the endless pre-primary campaigning and thereby lessen the initial investment of time and money. (Really, did any of the GOP candidates benefit from starting early in 2011?) There are a handful of candidates whose presence in the race would benefit the party and help raise the tone of the debate, no matter who is the eventual winner. Jeb Bush is certainly one of them.