The conventional wisdom has been that former Florida governor Jeb Bush won’t run in 2016. The country doesn’t want another Bush. He’s been out of politics too long. Immigration will kill him with the base. He won’t run against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). But those arguments, while not insubstantial, don’t seem as compelling as they were a few months ago.
George W. Bush has bounced back in popularity, and if the Dems can run a Clinton there is no reason the GOP can’t run a Bush. Besides, experienced leadership may be in style after we survive the next three years. And to boot, GOP governors are looking like the party’s saviors these days. Moreover, the passage of time has allowed certain issue to fade and others to resolve themselves (e.g. the Bush tax cuts). Jeb Bush understandably can say “times have changed” if he chooses not to adopt a position his brother took sixteen years ago. (Yes, it’ll be 16 years between 43’s presidential run and when Republicans again start trudging through Iowa and New Hampshire.)
Bush has been out of politics for some time, but that may be a plus these days. Many voters don’t know him and hence haven’t grown weary of him. He’s not taken votes that will come back to haunt him. He’s not has to choose sides in the shutdown battle or cast a vote one way or another on immigration reform.
That does bring us to immigration. Ironically his book touting only legalized status, not citizenship, for most here illegally is a very conservative position, far less generous than the Senate bill. Moreover, I’ve made the case many times that polling reflects a party much more receptive to comprehensive reform than the anti-immigration reform advocates on talk radio or in Heritage Act land.
And as for Rubio, his star has dimmed considerably as he has bounced around from immigration reform to the shutdown to a no vote on Syria to sounding the internationalist trumpet again (more on that in a post to follow). He’s confused, if not disappointed, virtually everyone; even many of his admirers would say he has time to mature and straighten out his Senate record. He can run in 2024 or well beyond if he likes.
I would therefore argue that the reasons for Bush not to run don’t stand up to scrutiny. What about the reasons to run? He’s a Spanish speaking, twice elected-governor from a swing state with a conservative record on everything from education reform to tort reform. As he said this week, he’d put his conservative record “up against anybody that’s in Congress right now.” He argued in convincing fashion, “I am temperate in my tone I hope. I don’t change my message to any group. I was brought up to be temperate … It’s OK to have a tone that’s not nasty or mean-spirited.” A lot of voters agree.
I have no idea if he will run. But I am more convinced that he could and should. He’s got a lot to tell the GOP voters.