Run, Jeb, run?
posted at 4:16 pm on February 7, 2011 by Allahpundit
Rich Lowry makes the case. On the obvious objection to dynastic rule:
4) The Bush rehabilitation has begun. George W. Bush is not exactly popular, but two years of Obama have taken the edge off W.-hatred, and he’s risen from the depths of his unpopularity near the end of his presidency. Gallup had a poll in December that had Bush’s approval rating very slightly above President Obama’s. Bush’s book, Decision Points, and the accompanying media tour were successes. In 2008, Jeb’s association with his brother would have been an absolute killer. That’s not true anymore. The controversies that made the Bush years so venomous have faded, and — partly through the miracle of the accelerated news cycle — 2000–2008 already feels somewhat distant.
5) Jeb will still be a Bush in 2016. There’s no doubt that it will always be awkward for Jeb to be the third Bush; it will always have a dynastic feel about it. But that will remain as true in 2016. If Jeb runs in four years, after Obama presumably wins a second term in 2012, he will still be vying to be the third Republican president in a row who’s a Bush. Waiting until 2016 won’t make that fact any less odd.
You could argue that the Bush name will actually be a heavier burden for Jeb five years from now because by then it’ll firmly belong to the past at a moment when the future — Rubio, Jindal, Christie, et al. — is finally ready to hit the presidential stage. So yes, Rich is right that the liability of Jeb’s surname will forever be priced into his political stock. The special problem of nominating him next year, though, is that it would pit him against a guy who was elected in the first place as the Anti-Bush. It would let Obama recast himself as the avatar of “Change” despite having been in office for four years, and it would add new resonance to the Democrats’ eternal talking points about how today’s GOP is no different from the GOP under Bush 43. To some extent voters have tuned them out on that — remember the DNC’s lame Dubya ad before the midterms? — but to hold a big presidential primary free-for-all and end up nominating … George Bush’s brother? It would be an almost physical representation of the left’s accusation that Republicans have no new ideas. That would be greatly unfair to Jeb given his record, but oh well. The ideal match-up for the GOP next year is Obama vs. Not Obama; nominating Jeb would make it Bush’s Brother vs. Not Bush’s Brother. Baaaad choice.
Besides, for all the talk of Jeb’s achievements as governor, wouldn’t he quickly end up being defined by his primary opponents as a de facto RINO and amnesty supporter? I wonder if having him and Huntsman jump in wouldn’t actually end up benefiting Romney indirectly by making him seem less centrist by comparison. Exit question: Per K-Lo, what about Jeb for VP instead? He could appeal to moderates if there’s a “true conservative” at the top of the ticket, and he’d make Florida a lead-pipe cinch to turn red in the general.