Blog No. 31 Update: Exploring the Desert with Jeb Bush and the Republican Field

In Blog No. 31, we expressed confidentially (to RINOs and our friends) a pre-endorsement of Jeb Bush. We would not like to claim post hoc credit for subsequent developments, but we are heartened by them.Jennifer Rubin, writing in The Washington Post, noted that the respected political analyst, Larry Sabato, had re-calibrated his assessment of the Republican field to place Jeb at the very top. The current Sabato line-up, published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, has it thus:

Table 1: Crystal Ball ratings of 2016 Republican presidential contenders

First Tier
Candidate Key Advantages Key Disadvantages Since Last Update
Jeb Bush
Ex-Governor, FL
•Strong gubernatorial resume
•Hispanic connections
•Key swing state
•National Bush money and organization
•Wrong last name (Bush dynasty) — although Clinton dynasty could neutralize this
•George W. Bush’s record?
•Does he actually want to run?
Scott Walker
Governor, WI
•Midwest GOP gov. in Obama state
•Heroic conservative credentials
•Shown political durability
•Too bland? Next Pawlenty?
•Do lingering scandals hurt him?
•No college degree
Rand Paul
Senator, KY
•Tea Party favorite
•Strong support from libertarian GOP wing
•National ID and fundraising network
•Too dovish/eclectic for GOP tastes?
•Association with out-of-mainstream father
•Plagiarism questions
Chris Christie Governor, NJ •Dynamic speaker
•Shown ability to pursue mainly conservative agenda in Blue state
•Could bridge criticism by media rally the right?
•Bridge scandal still playing out
•Bullying and out-of-control-staff questions
•Not conservative enough for base?
Second Tier
Marco Rubio
Senator, FL
•Dynamic speaker and politician
•From most electorally valuable swing state
•Future tough votes in Senate; has and will have federal record
•Did his national star peak too soon?
•Could he really deliver more Hispanic votes?
Ted Cruz
Senator, TX
•Tea Party favorite with voting record to match
•Texas and small dollar fundraising
•Dynamic speaker
•Anti-establishment nature plays well with base
•Tea Party favorite
•Too extreme? One word: Shutdown.
•Disliked on both sides of the Senate aisle
John Kasich
Governor, OH
•Swing state
•Long conservative record
•Could be fallback for GOP establishment forces
•Supported Medicaid expansion
•Makes verbal miscues, lots of video from time as Fox host
•Abrasive personality
Wild Cards?
Paul Ryan
Representative, WI
•2012 VP candidate — next in line?
•General election experience
•Strong conservative record
•May not want to run, possibly positioning self for future in House
•Not a dynamic campaigner
Mike Huckabee
Ex-Governor, AR
•Extensive governing experience
•Already vetted
•Blue collar appeal
•Strong support from social conservatives
•Southerner in Southern-centered party
•Too narrow appeal within party?
•Disliked by economic conservatives
•Small fundraising base
Rob Portman
Senator, OH
•Very well qualified; vast government experience
•From key swing state
•Supports same-sex marriage
•More insider than leading man
•Crowded out by fellow Ohioan Kasich?
•Supports same-sex marriage
Susana Martinez
Governor, NM
•Diversity in party sorely in need of it
• Electoral success in Blue state
• Compelling life story/record
•Pro-Medicaid expansion
•Unvetted nationally
•Frequently disavows interest in running
Rick Santorum
Ex-Senator, PA
•Strong support from social conservatives
•2nd place finisher in ‘12 — next in line?
•Been around primary track
•Harder to stand out in stronger 2016 field
•Lost last Senate race by 17%
•Chip-on-shoulder attitude
Rick Perry
Governor, TX
•Showing clear improvement as a candidate — “second chance” mentality
•Strong conservative credentials
•Texas fundraising
•Extensive executive experience
•Ran very poor 2012 race
•More “Texas” in a nation that is not as conservative as the Lone Star State
•“Oops,” we forgot the rest

Sabbato’s explanation for his reassessment included the following:

For all the sturm und drang regarding the Tea Party in the Republican nominating process, it’s going to be hard for someone who lacks widespread establishment support — like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) or Ted Cruz (R-TX) — to win the nomination. Political science research indicates that endorsements from sitting officeholders and party leaderscan be quite predictive of presidential nominees.

And that leads us to another reason to take a potential Bush candidacy seriously: The establishment loves him.

In recent months, we’ve noticed an unmistakable and widespread desire among some of the Republicans we talk to, particularly ones who would be classified as members of the establishment on and off Capitol Hill, for a third Bush nominee in less than three decades. In one conversation, we mentioned several other potential candidates on our list, but the chatter kept coming back to Jeb. He was the only candidate with whom these party leaders appeared to be comfortable.

A preference for a Bush candidacy is inspired, we think, by a natural conservatism among political party leaders in searching for presidential candidates. The parties want someone who is a proven commodity capable of running a strong campaign and raising a Fort Knox of gold without much hand-holding. It’s a preference for the safest choice, and it’s got nothing to do with a political belief system.

In its simplest terms, Sabato’s analysis comes down to a belief that the pragmatists will prevail over the ideologues. That may not sound like a compelling argument to some, but it is a reassuring thought to those of us weary from observing the blind alleys down which ideological frolics have taken the Republican Party.

Another straw in the wind is Bush’s well-publicized trip to Las Vegas this weekend to address the Republican Jewish Congress. Not so incidentally, Bush will also be the featured speaker at a VIP dinner hosted by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a Board member of the RJC.  Adelson is perhaps the Republican’s single most important donor in terms of providing early support to a candidate. In 2012, Adelson spent tens of millions of dollars on behalf of Newt Gingrich, which may have deprived Romney of the chance to establish dominance early in the primaries. Adelson later supported Romney, and for the 2016 election it is said that he is looking to support a mainstream candidate from the outset. Such a candidate, it is hoped, would have the ability to put together a broad coalition that would include minority voters. Bush, whose wife is Mexican American and is fluent in Spanish, would appear to have a clear advantage in that respect.

Paying court to Sheldon Adelson (deemed by some the “Sheldon Primary”) may not be the most edifying aspect of seeking the Republican nomination, but it is the way of the world these days. Bush’s potential rivals for 2016 who will also be  in Las Vegas on that mission include Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich.

Stay tuned.

5 thoughts on “Blog No. 31 Update: Exploring the Desert with Jeb Bush and the Republican Field

  • The chart was especially useful! Martinez is viewed more positively by those far away from New Mexico, a quite blue state where she is burdened by a Democratic legislature and mostly negative press coverage. This said, she could possibly be a decent VP candidate for Bush

  • requirements to be president: must be a natural born U.S. citizen. Someone may be born abroad, but only if both parents were citizens of the United States. The only exception to this was for those around at the time the Constitution was adopted. Their requirement was that they had to be a citizen when the Constitution.

    ted cruz was born in canada. his cuban father did not become a naturalized citizen until 2005.

    • As I said in response to an earlier comment, I have not studied the question, but the consensus seems to be that the citizenship of Cruz’s mother was sufficient to have made him a citizen at the time of his birth and hence a “natural born citizen” (one who did not have to be naturalized). The matter is not entirely beyond debate, but frankly I doubt that Cruz will get close enough to the Presidency to make the answer important. If he does, I may revisit the issue.

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