Sen. Marco Rubio in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper says what Rubio’s team has been spreading: He won’t base his presidential decision on Jeb Bush.

“In my mind when people decide to run for an office of that magnitude they do so under their own criteria, not what someone else is going to do,” Rubio said. “And I’d imagine Jeb would tell you the same thing. His decision, and the decision of many other people who are being speculated about, is not going to be about whether someone else is going to run or not.”

Noting he has “tremendous admiration for Jeb Bush,” Rubio told CNN: “I don’t think if I decide to run it would be a reflection on him, or if he were to run it would be a reflection on me.”

***

Does Jeb Bush sound like a man who wants to run for president? In an extended interview with Fox News’ Shannon Bream, the former Florida governor gave the impression of someone who would like to be president but has been out of the game for a while and isn’t particularly eager to jump in the trenches and fight for it. The only problem is, whoever wins the 2016 Republican nomination — and there will be a field full of candidates in top form — will have to jump in the trenches and fight for it…

In the Fox interview, Bush said a campaign should be about “winning the election, not making a point.” Winning, he said, “should be what we’re about.” But the bottom line is that, at least right now, Bush just doesn’t seem like a politician in top fighting shape. It’s not even clear he wants the fight at all. That’s the real question for Jeb Bush.

***

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think right now Jeb Bush is sort of Chris Christie without the bridge scandal. He’s a moderate Republican, can raise a ton of money who’s got some issues with the base of the party. And I don’t think those issues are really the biggest barrier, at least not what I heard from that interview. What I heard from that interview was him say he doesn’t want to get into the mud, and I think that, more than any of the issues — immigration or Common Core — could be a bigger problem with regard to the base. I think they’re looking for someone who wants to get into the mud. Remember, they were upset with McCain for not going after Jeremiah Wright. They were upset with Romney over the Bain attacks and him not pushing back much harder. I think conservative Republicans are looking for someone who’s willing to fight, who wants a fight. And if Jeb Bush is saying, I don’t want to get in the mud, I want to keep it clean, I want to stay up here, I think they might see a whiff of elitism there, and that could be a big problem.

***

When Bream asked Bush about immigration, he mentioned the Senate bill and border security. Then, before he waxed rhapsodic about the motivations of illegal immigrants, Bush said this: “The way I look at this – and it’ll be on tape and so be it – the way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families – the dad who loved their children – was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table.”

It’ll be on tape and so be it?

That’s something you say if you’re picturing yourself as a future candidate and you’re worried about the ads that’ll be run against you.

***

Though his ties to the Christian right are extensive, Jeb Bush — who converted to his wife’s Catholicism almost two decades ago — has tended not to wear his personal faith on his sleeve, and certainly not to extent that his elder brother did throughout his political life. Still, according to confidants of the former Florida governor, several religious conservative leaders have nudged Bush privately to seriously consider getting into the race.

Some observers see history repeating itself in the way Bush is being branded in the media, albeit with a twist. While mulling his own presidential bid in 1998 and 1999, George W. Bush also faced questions about whether he was positioning himself as the “establishment” Republican candidate, in part due to the family name and his moderate record on some key issues as governor of Texas.

That perception was quickly quashed, however, once Bush entered the race and presented himself as an unabashedly religious social conservative, naming Jesus as his favorite philosopher and citing Antonin Scalia as a model for the kind of Supreme Court justices he would appoint.

“Those who misapprehended that W. would run as a moderate candidate found out the hard way he was not about to concede social conservatives to other candidates,” one prominent evangelical leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an email. “If Jeb decides to run (and he is a long way off from making that decision), my sense is that he will be able to make as strong or even a stronger case to the socially conservative grassroots of the GOP.”

***

Let it be noted that Jeb Bush deserves kudos for making sense on the immigration issue. When he describes coming to the United States illegally in order to find opportunity as “an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family,” he displays more compassion and decency than any of the fence-building border warriors possess in their shriveled, nativist souls. He also shows a way to a future that may have room for a Republican Party in a world that looks unlikely to cater to the preferences of grumpy know-nothings who don’t like cilantro. But that’s not going to be an enduring or healthy future if it requires turning a political party into a family project.

Political parties that rely on genetically intermingled talent pools aren’t signs of a healthy political system. That’s not to say people should lose the right to pursue political careers just because they’re related to somebody else who held office. But in a nation of over 300 million people, surely one of the two organizations clinging with lamprey-like tenacity to coercive power can rotate through a few surnames from time to time, if only in its applications for tenancy in the White House.

Yes, families often develop traditions of “public service” as one generation passes on a taste to the next for living off of others without producing anything of value for which people might willingly pay: Adams, Roosevelt, Taft—and now Bush and Clinton. But there’s a difference between a family tradition and an actual, no-bullshit dynasty, and the GOP is drifting close to crossing that line.

***

Even without a replay of the Bachmann-Cain-Gingrich-Perry-Paul GOP primary freak show of 2012, the party is heading into its confrontation with Hillary Clinton at a serious general election disadvantage. Some of the weakness has demographic roots that no single candidate can change in a single race. But the rest is a product of the party’s rightward lurch over the past six years — and a restive base that demands absolute ideological purity on the part of candidates.

The result, as in 2012, is likely to be a primary contest devoted to winning the Real Conservative trophy. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul already spend most of their days trying to out-Tea Party the other. Marco Rubio would be doing the same thing if he wasn’t preoccupied with figuring out how to distance himself from his role in drafting a failed immigration reform bill that was wildly unpopular with the angry white grassroots of the party. And so it goes down the line, with Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, John Kasich, and other wannabes bringing up the rear — all of them desperate to earn the support of the party’s populist foot soldiers.

By the time it’s all over, the 80+ percent of America that isn’t furiously right wing will likely have been persuaded that, however disappointing the Obama years have turned out to be, there are worse things than spending another four years with a centrist Democrat in the White House.

Unless, that is, a candidate with broader appeal comes on the scene. For a time, it looked like Chris Christie might be such a candidate. But the Bridgegate scandal continues to fester, and it has managed to reinforce the impression that the man from the swamps of Jersey is a bully and a thug.

And that leaves Jeb.

***

***

Via the Daily Rushbo.