Media mogul Rupert Murdoch says Jeb Bush and Paul Ryan are on the top of his list for the 2016 presidential election — but that he could vote for Hillary Clinton, depending on the Republican candidate.

The race is “between four or five people,” the News Corp. chief told Fortune in his first wide-ranging interview in five years. “It’s not necessarily, although slightly, in order of preference: Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, whom I have particular admiration for. I do for both. [Chris] Christie could recover. Scott Walker, whom I don’t know, and Rand Paul, whom I agree with on a great number of things but disagree strongly on some things — too strongly perhaps to vote for him.”…

In the interview, Murdoch described former Florida Gov. Bush as “a man of very fine character” and “a great governor,” noting that he liked his policy on education, which Murdoch identified as his primary concern.

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As possible candidates such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky seek to establish their legitimacy, and while Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey struggles to recover from the scandal on the George Washington bridge, Mr. Bush is positioned as something of a white knight: a mainstream profile for a party struggling for identity, an experienced campaigner amid near-amateurs, a Catholic fluent in Spanish for a party increasingly reliant on the white Catholic vote (Mitt Romney won 59 percent in 2012) but dangerously unappealing for Latino voters (Mr. Romney took only 27 percent)…

Can he win? That question comes in two dimensions. He will not have an easy time in the Republican primaries, but the size of the field may work to his advantage; the others, representatives of the strain of muscular conservatism that has become so prominent in the modern GOP, plus some representatives of the religious right such as former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania or former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, may split the vote and allow someone to win Iowa with as little as 26 percent.

If he runs in the general election against Mrs. Clinton, he will portray her as a standard-bearer for a third Clinton term — or, even less appealing, for a third Obama term. If Mrs. Clinton or some other Democrat runs against him, he or she will portray Mr. Bush as a standard-bearer for a third term of his brother. The voters don’t want either of those things. Just as important, the two legacy candidates don’t either.

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The 2016 presidential race at this stage is an inverse of the 1988 election, said Anthony Corrado, a professor specializing in campaign finance at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

Back then, Vice President George H.W. Bush entered the Republican primary with a dominant political and fundraising apparatus — his Christmas card list included 250,000 names, Corrado recalled — while Democrats waited in vain for New York Governor Mario Cuomo to enter the race.

When the Cuomo opted not to run, the party was left with the “Seven Dwarfs,” a nickname for the second-tier candidates who competed for a nomination that eventually went to Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Dukakis lost to Bush, 426 to 111 in the Electoral College and by seven percentage points in the popular vote…

The danger for Republicans in 2016 is that an establishment freeze brought on by … Bush’s reticence could leave the party’s eventual nominee lagging in preparation behind Clinton, whose supporters already are building voter and donor lists.

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Republican members of Congress are criticizing Jeb Bush’s comments on immigration, highlighting the challenge he’d face in winning over the GOP’s conservative base in a 2016 presidential primary…

“When you trivialize the fact that these people have broken the law, I think your message is a little bit off. I think it’s unfortunate,” [Raul] Labrador said at a Tuesday event sponsored by The Heritage Foundation…

“I think comments from Jeb Bush and other Republicans — what they’re doing is they’re pandering to a certain group of people,” Labrador said. “And I’ve got news for you. If we pass immigration reform tomorrow like members of the Republican conference want us to do, they’re not going to vote for the Republican Party.”…

“I don’t think Jeb Bush’s comments on immigration or Common Core resonate very well in South Carolina; I will say that,” Duncan said. “There’s a lot to like about Jeb Bush, but on those two issues, they won’t resonate very well in South Carolina.”

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Early in the 2012 presidential cycle, a friend and former staffer of Jeb Bush observed to me, bitterly, that this smart, capable man wasn’t included in the names of potential GOP nominees for only one reason: His name was Bush. I said that’s true, but it’s also true that he got his chance in politics because his name was Bush. He inherited the fame, the money lines and support, and made a career of them. There’s a rough justice in life, you have to roll with it…

I have no idea if he’s running, and neither perhaps does he. It would probably be a hard psychological question. He has seen the presidency up close and seen all the muck a family has to deal with on the way to the glory. That muck has only grown deeper since his father and brother ran. It would be surprising if he were not ambivalent about the enterprise. All his adult life his family has been in the spotlight: He knows the sting of undeserved criticism and the embarrassment of unearned praise. He knows what it is to see people you love attacked and not be able to answer because answering isn’t classy.

Beyond that there is the father-brother thing, which is the foreign-policy question. His father is now seen as a foreign-policy realist. He was prudent after the end of the Soviet Union, he was tactful, and when he felt he had to go to war in Kuwait he built a world-wide coalition, did the job he said he would do, and stopped when that job was done. Jeb’s brother is associated with neoconservatism: Be daring, break the tectonic plates, force the realities to reconstitute themselves in new and better ways, invade, spread democracy.

Where does Jeb stand? What philosophical assumptions guide his decisions? Whichever policy view he declares will seem like an implicit rebuke of someone he loves.

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“It’s time to turn the page,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe (Okla.), a senior member of the GOP conference.

“Looking at it practically, there are others who could do a better job in terms of winning the election,” he added. “It’s a little bit of Bush fatigue but the other thing is for a Republican to win a race like that … you got to have someone who really engenders enthusiasm in the base. Jeb’s a wonderful guy and all that, but I don’t believe he’d be able to do that.”…

GOP senators praise Bush’s record in Florida, especially his accomplishments on education reform, but they are also eager to embrace a new generation of conservative leaders, represented by other likely presidential candidates Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

“I’m a Jeb Bush fan but I’m also a fan of turning over a new leaf, too,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who in 2003 led a conservative revolt in the House of Representatives against the prescription drug bill.

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2016 could be different if the tea party has its way. But — as “The Party Decides” found — the longer a party has been out of the White House, the more it tends to nominate more moderate candidates. That’s not to say that potential nominees won’t try to placate the tea party, or religious conservatives like those who voted for Santorum. But such groups’ influence could be lessened as Republicans contemplate 12 or 16 years without one of their own in the White House.

Bush’s familiar last name should help as well. Every Republican nominee since 1968 has satisfied one of three criteria: He’s had a family member who’d won the presidency; he’s been on a winning presidential ticket himself; or he’s come in second in a prior nomination season. These are admittedly broad criteria, but Republicans haven’t nominated relative unknowns, unlike Democrats with their Mike Dukakises and Jimmy Carters.

Of course, the Bush brand was damaged by Jeb’s brother George. Even so, George W. Bush has averaged a favorable rating in the mid-80s among Republicans. That’s only about 5 percentage points lower than Bill Clinton’s among Democrats.

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It is not merely antipathy among Democrats that accounts for Mr Bush’s shaky polling numbers. His party is split, perhaps fatally, between its wealthy donors and its déclassé voters. So big is the role of fundraising in national politics that few politicians spend enough time with non-millionaires to realise how distant from voters they have become…

Democrats won the last two presidential elections by nominating someone who inspires their party base, and then battling it out for uncommitted voters. The Republican party is following a different strategy. It is courting money men and trusting that the red-hot rank-and-file members will fall into line, having no place else to go. But they will not. Right now, those voters appear to be gravitating to the conservative Kentucky senator Rand Paul, with his untraditional mix of libertarianism, isolationism and Austrian economics.

Republican candidates generally raise less campaign funding than Democrats do. Beholden to a few big donors, Republicans are left peddling a strategy many of their ordinary activists find repugnant. Mr Bush is being promoted by Republicans whose main interest in the party is that it not nominate someone who will shake up the Obama-era economic settlement. The strategy seems bound to produce an electoral loss. That appears to be of little concern to the people devising it.

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Jeb Bush’s comments reflect larger currents of discontent within his party. Mainstream conservatives fear that a presidential candidate who espouses the tea party’s agenda and style of politics will go down to catastrophic defeat. The antigovernment conspiracy theories Mr. Bush denounces—the latest iteration of the paranoid style in American politics—threaten to marginalize the GOP…

In his latest remarks, Jeb Bush could not have been clearer: If he runs for president, his campaign will avoid the “mud fight” of recent nominating cycles. Instead, it will feature a “hopeful, optimistic message” organized around a vision of America’s future. It remains to be seen whether the base of the Republican Party is willing to accept anything of the sort…

The tea party offers nothing except nostalgia for a demography that is in retreat and a Constitution that never was. By contrast, Jeb Bush wants to run as a conservative unafraid of the future. Will other candidates join him, or will they appeal to the mob as they did in 2012 after Rick Perry haplessly advocated a modicum of compassion for illegal immigrants? If Mr. Bush sets the tone within his party, the American people may well get the kind of presidential campaign the country needs. If the tea party prevails, get ready for an avalanche of anger, followed by a repetition of 1964.

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