Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida was blunt Monday night: If he runs for president in 2016, he will not pander to his party’s conservative base in the primaries.
Mr. Bush said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington that Republican candidates must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general, without violating your principles.”
“It’s not an easy task, to be honest with you,” he added.
Bush told the audience that he didn’t know if he’d be a “good candidate or a bad one,” but he detailed his vision of a winning Republican campaign: “It has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more willing to, you know, to be practical now in Washington”…
Asked whether the maneuvers needed to win a primary are at odds with what’s needed to win a general election, Bush responded that “no one really knows that because it hasn’t been tried recently.”…
Compared to many other likely Republican presidential candidates, Bush also staked out a relatively moderate position on President Barack Obama’s executive action preventing deportations of millions of undocumented immigrants.
While other possible contenders have called for lawsuits or threatened to block Obama’s nominees, Bush criticized the move as “more than provocative” and “extra-constitutional,” but wouldn’t call it unconstitutional because he’s “not a lawyer.”
Since Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, Republicans have followed the Buckley Rule in presidential nominating fights—backing the most-electable conservative candidate. Divisions between party leaders and grassroots conservatives have been a staple of Republican politics for generations, but for the last 50 years, the GOP has always nominated someone who is acceptable to both factions.
Despite the unusually large field, many of the contenders would have trouble bridging that divide. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s outspoken support for Common Core educational standards and immigration reform would put him at a disadvantage in a primary—one that he readily acknowledges.
Despite Bush’s declaration yesterday that “I kinda know how a Republican can win, whether it’s me or somebody else — and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive, much more wiling to be, ‘lose the primary to win the general’ without violating your principles” it is very hard to believe Bush would or could run for president by explicitly renouncing the conservative base of the party. At some point, Bush will, either by choice or necessity, attempt to claim the mantle of the conservative candidate. The big question is whether grassroots conservatives, feeling their country is under assault by a destructive, aggressive progressivism, will be reassured by policy achievements from 1999 to 2007.
“The question is whether you can assemble a coalition of serious-minded centrist voters,” the Bush source said. “If he thinks it can be done, he’ll do it how he sees fit.”…
Strategists interviewed by The Hill raised doubts about whether Bush could really avoid modifying at least his public statements in the rough-and-tumble GOP primary…
One strategist said “chastising conservatives for being too conservative in a conservative primary process” wouldn’t get him anywhere.
“History is littered with people who think rules of the primary don’t apply to them,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP strategist…
“You get the sense that he’s exasperated with the party to some extent,” one Republican said of Bush. “He has strong feelings on immigration and education that he gets attacked from Republicans for. When he last ran there wasn’t a Tea Party contingent to get on your case. It’s a whole different world now. If he wants to he can do it — he’ll raise money and has the gravitas, but running is a humbling experience, not a coronation.”
For anti-spending conservatives, Jeb line-item vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars in hometown projects from the state budget year after year.
For small-government conservatives, Jeb eliminated thousands of jobs by outsourcing huge swaths of state duties, including the massive human resources function and the state purchasing office.
For law-and-order conservatives, Jeb championed tough-on-crime bills like “10-20-life” for gun offenders and three-strikes legislation for repeat offenders. He jammed through the legislature a death-penalty overhaul drastically limiting appeals for condemned inmates (it was soon afterward struck down, however, by the Florida Supreme Court)…
For religious conservatives, Jeb rammed through education bills that created the first statewide school voucher programs in the nation, and then spent years defending them against oversight attempts. He approved the “Choose Life” license plate and sent state money to groups that counseled women against having abortions. And, famously, he pushed through legislation allowing him as governor to intervene in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case—and at the very end nearly triggered a showdown with a local judge by sending state police officers to seize her from a Tampa Bay area hospice.
With all this on his résumé, Jeb Bush is now considered a moderate? A RINO? What more can conservatives want?
The Bush Doctrine is on the verge of making a comeback.
As Jeb Bush weighs a presidential bid, the former Florida governor on Tuesday laid out his foreign policy precepts, which closely mirror that of his brother, former President George W. Bush…
Bush called for more military and cybersecurity spending, strengthening international alliances, robustly criticizing enemies and expanding free trade. He sounded notes of concern with nearly every quarter of the world: Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel…
“It undermines our credibility in the world. Our allies don’t trust us. And our enemies don’t fear us. There is no situation worse for stability and peace than that,” Bush said. “The iron rule of superpower deterrent is ‘mean it when you say it.’ And it has been broken by this president.”
Yet while Bush is right about the need for his party to articulate what it believes in rather than merely opposing what Obama has done, Republicans should be forgiven for wondering whether, like many a general of the past, perhaps he is fighting the next war with the tactics that would have won the last one. The events of the last year have changed the equation on immigration in many respects, both in terms of policy and politics, and it may be that for once, the conservative base that Bush seems so intent on challenging may have a better feel for what can win the White House than this scion of the party establishment.
As someone who supported the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate last year, I agree with Bush that the system needs to be fixed and that sooner or later, the nation will have to confront the problem of what to do about the approximately 11 million illegals already in the country. But the events of this past summer, specifically the surge of illegals, demonstrated that offers of amnesty do have an impact on the ability of the country to control its borders and that opponents of a comprehensive approach were right. Enforcement must come first before anything else…
Should Jeb Bush run in 2016 he would be a formidable candidate with the ability to raise all the money he needs and the support of many in the party establishment eager to win back the White House. But if he is planning on running against the party base, the path to a Bush 45 presidency may be rockier than he thinks. Employing the tactics that might have won in 2012 may not only lose primaries that will ensure the nomination for a potential rival but also won’t necessarily win any Republican the general election in 2016.
Jeb Bush is not only going nowhere, but he’s going nowhere quickly. He will not be in the race for months before being vanquished; he will be out of the race in rather smart fashion…
So Jeb Bush’s candidacy is essentially a Protest Candidacy. Protest Candidacies are all about “convincing people” of this or that thing they don’t already believe. Occasionally they may have some impact, in that they raise the profile of an issue.
But what Protest Candidates do not do is win primaries, and Jeb Bush’s Protest Candidacy (apparently protesting conservatism itself, it seems like) will likewise fail to result in an actual nomination.
It will be the most high-profile, most extravagantly funded Protest Candidacy in history, but it will result in a failure, as all Protest Candidacies result in failure.
Bush III vs. Clinton II offers exactly such an insipid choice. They’re equally part of dynasties that have waged endless, aimless war; spiked the national debt; expanded the invasive surveillance state; maintained the failed and racist drug war; frequently flouted the rule of law; and given out special favors and bailouts to friends in big business. From war to domestic surveillance, from drugs to Wall Street, there’s no evidence that these heirs apparent(ish) will significantly change course.
Bush vs. Clinton really is the perfect way to make us hate politics even more. At a gut level it feels aristocratic and distinctly un-American. At a policy level, picking between the previous decade’s leftovers isn’t much of a choice. And at a practical level I can’t help but think that my time will be better spent outside the voting booth than in it, pulling a lever for more of the same. Like much of my generation, I’d rather “take problems on in real time and fix them” — which isn’t exactly the government’s forte.
Or I suppose I could take the long view and start studying up for 2032. I’m sure George P. Bush and Chelsea Clinton will run a very competitive race.