There’s no way around it. America’s political establishment wants Bush vs. Clinton II.
Is resistance futile?
Every single Romney donor we spoke with this week listed the former Florida governor as their top choice…
Also, with solid name recognition and the Bush political machine behind him, Romney donors believe Jeb is the most electable of the potential Republican candidates. For Romney donors, electability is the single most important trait.
“If Jeb Bush is in the race, he clears the field,” said one major Romney donor. “You would have someone who has the talent that is equal to Mitt. The natural inclination for Mitt supporters would be to gravitate toward Jeb Bush because he’s a candidate that can win a national race.”
Another huge factor that would help Bush — who has contacted some donors about their receptiveness to a presidential bid and is believed to be seriously considering throwing his hat in the ring — is that his current gig as a senior adviser to Barclays Capital has helped him meet many of the Northeastern private equity types who filled Romney’s campaign coffers.
Christie’s Bridgegate crumble is contributing to Bush fee-vah, but like WaPo says, Christie had already burned some bridges with Mittworld by babbling praise for Obama over Sandy relief the weekend before the 2012 election. Bush has been waiting around for Christiemania to cool among Republican centrists, and now it is, so here we are.
Help me understand this, though:
“If Jeb Bush is in the race, he clears the field,” said one major Romney donor.
Which field? Crowning George Bush’s brother the new king of the Beltway Republicans isn’t going to scare tea-party candidates out of the race. Rand Paul would rather face Christie than Bush for various reasons — Bridgegate, lower name recognition, smaller donor network, plus the fact that Christie has antagonized many more Republicans over the last few years than Bush has — but there are advantages to running against Jeb too. Now he gets to attack not just a RINO but a dynastic RINO, whose own mother thinks it’s poor form for the family to monopolize Republican nominations. Paul’s brand is that he’s a new kind of Republican; nothing would underscore that like running against a Bush, which means he might attract some voters who have issues with him but nonetheless want fresh faces in the party’s leadership. (I’m one of them. I like Paul but doubt I’d support him in the primaries — unless we’re given a stark “old guard versus new guard” choice.) And Paul may relish running against Bush even though it would make his task harder. If you want to shift the Republican Party’s foreign policy paradigm to noninterventionism, you can do worse than have George W. Bush’s brother as your opponent.
What the donor quoted by WaPo probably meant was that Bush would clear the centrist field. No more Christie: He’d conclude that he’s too badly damaged to beat a well-funded Jeb and decide to support him instead. No more Rubio: The Florida Republican establishment would swing behind Jeb, leaving Rubio with no operational base. Probably no more Paul Ryan either. Even if he was inclined to run, it’d be hard to make bank with Mitt’s old donors stampeding towards Bush and hard to turn to grassroots righties for support given that they’re peeved at him over amnesty and last year’s budget. But … what about Scott Walker or Bobby Jindal, who seems like he’s quietly building a proto-campaign? They’d make the same calculation that Paul will — that some segment of Republicans will blanch at the thought of nominating another Bush, whether out of objections to dynasticism or because they fear the “Bush” name is unelectable at this point, and jump in. They’d sell themselves as the Goldilocks option, more conservative than Crown Prince Jeb and more mainstream than Paul, and pull donations from both sides of the party. If/when the center and right reach a stalemate on Bush versus Paul, Walker or Jindal will be there as a compromise choice. The field won’t clear, unless your idea of “the field” runs no further to the right than Rubio.