Quotes of the day

Jeb Bush and his emissaries are sending increasingly strong signals that the former Florida governor is gearing up for a 2016 presidential campaign, with associates saying he could announce his intentions within a month.

Bush recently e-mailed major Republican donors asking them to, as several of them put it, “keep your powder dry.” His allies are urging would-be bundlers not to commit to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or other potential rivals. Bush’s top strategist, Mike Murphy, has also been telling potential campaign staffers not to sign up to work for another candidate and to expect Bush’s announcement soon…

For Bush, allies said, waiting until spring to decide on a campaign would carry serious risks. The competition is already underway among a dozen or so ambitious Republican hopefuls to woo donors and sign talented staff…

Asked whether he saw any reason Bush would not run, one confidant who has been in touch with the former governor said, “I don’t know of anything.”

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A tightknit group of longtime aides, led by California-based strategist Mike Murphy and Florida-based confidante Sally Bradshaw, have been huddling with Bush in recent weeks, sketching out the look and feel of a possible 2016 campaign.

Their thinking is that Bush, who was last on a ballot in 2002, would need to be aggressive and digitally savvy, challenging any impressions that he is an establishment moderate with sclerotic campaign skills.

Instead, they would attempt to cast him as an accessible conservative reformer who is not of Washington, according to Republicans who have spoken with Murphy and Bradshaw…

“I think he would be the toughest guy for us,” Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor and past Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview Sunday. “He could raise a lot of money, and in a general election, you have to be respectful that anything can happen. . . . He’s going to have a stance on immigration that is much more constructive than the one held by others in his party, and I don’t think he’ll back away.”

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More than anything else, Jeb’s moves are a signal to Republican donors and campaign staffers that he’s going to probably run. (They also help to counter last week’s Bloomberg report that Bush, less than a month ago, filed documents showing him as a chairman and manager of an offshore private equity account.) The local Florida reporter who interviewed Bush about his upcoming email and book releases, said, per the Washington Post: “I think it’s now a question of ‘when’ he runs, rather than ‘if’ he runs.” Oh, and Bush today delivers the winter commencement address at the University of South Carolina — a state holding one of the earliest GOP presidential primaries.

After Jeb Bush’s news this weekend, we received a press release that supporters of Mitt Romney have created a Super PAC urging the 2012 GOP presidential nominee to make a run in ’16. This Super PAC sure feels like a response to Jeb, because if Jeb does get in, there won’t be as much pining for Romney, especially among the Republican Party’s wealthy donors. Here’s one more thing to consider: If Jeb is ultimately a “yes,” that probably also freezes out a bid by Marco Rubio, who’s a political disciple of Bush’s.

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On the eve of the appearance, he said he plans to release an electronic book early next year along with roughly 250,000 thousands of emails from his time as governor.

Surely, that’s a sign the former Florida governor is in.

Bush also is expanding his private equity business, and advisers insist he’s not courting a political staff Iowa and New Hampshire, even as other would-be candidates assemble their 2016 campaign teams in the early voting states.

Surely, that’s a sign he’s out.

About all anyone can say for certain is that, as Bush himself has said, he’s still thinking about it.

“He’s begun the journey. How long it will take him, I don’t know,” said Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush friend and former chairman of the American Conservative Union. “People are interpreting activity to conclude that he’s closer to running. I’m not of that school.

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Bush’s categorization as a moderate owes much to the passion he brings to the issues of immigration and education and his dissent from hard-line conservatives on both. These rebellions are meaningful…

But much of his record in Florida is that of the “headbanging conservative” he claimed to be during a first, unsuccessful campaign for governor in 1994. (He won the next time, in 1998.) He slashed taxes. He was a friend to gun owners: Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law was enacted on his watch.

In the case of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman deemed by many physicians to be in a persistent vegetative state, he intervened on the side of her parents — but against the wishes of her husband, who was her legal guardian — to prevent the removal of a feeding tube. And he was an assertive opponent of abortion rights. He still opposes them, and same-sex marriage.

But he learned between his 1994 defeat and 1998 victory to reach out to minorities and speak inclusively and hopefully. When he recently told an audience in Washington that a person had to be willing to lose the Republican primary to win the general election, he was in part alluding to that lesson, and he was telegraphing the tone that a Bush campaign would take. He was also signaling a suspicion of labels and boxes.

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[Romney] has assessed various people’s strengths and weaknesses dispassionately, wearing what one ally called his “consultant cap” to measure the field. He has said, among other things, that Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, would run into problems because of his business dealings, his work with the investment banks Lehman Brothers and Barclays, and his private equity investments.

“You saw what they did to me with Bain [Capital],” he has said, referring to the devastating attacks that his Republican rivals and President Barack Obama’s team launched against him for his time in private equity, according to three sources familiar with the line. “What do you think they’ll do to [Bush] over Barclays?”

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Democrats would love to do to Jeb Bush what Team Obama did to Mitt Romney: force the Republican to spend his campaign defending a business record that he had originally hoped to trumpet. But in order to pull off the track with Bush, Hillary Clinton and her allies have a higher hill to climb than Obama’s reelection machine ever did.

Elements of Romney’s business background had been the subject of attack ads dating back to his first Senate run in 1994, as Romney’s time at Bain & Company and Bain Capital predated his days as governor. But Bush’s involvement with banks like Lehman Brothers and Barclays is comparatively recent and relatively unexplored. Romney also spent years as the presumptive GOP nominee ahead of 2012, giving Democrats more than enough time to find the answers to any questions that remained. Bush’s re-emergence after years of private life is forcing Democrats to play catch-up

Shauna Daly, a veteran Democratic strategist who spearheaded President Obama’s 2008 opposition research efforts and served as a senior adviser to American Bridge during the 2012 election, outlined the difficulty Bush poses for opposition researchers. “The last time I was at Bridge two years ago, the Jeb Bush file hadn’t been updated in a really long time,” Daly said, noting that private-sector records like those most sought out for Romney, and possibly Bush, are more cumbersome to unearth and sort than records from time spent in public office.

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Bush has said that if he runs for president, he will do it differently than past candidates. “Lose the general to win the primary,” is how he described his mindset in a recent interview. That’s actually a temporal impossibility—losing teams don’t get to compete in the Super Bowl—but for Bush it is shorthand for approaching the Republican primary differently. In essence, he may run the risk of doing things that are usually considered destructive in the GOP primary, but that he envisions will be so effective that he not only wins the primary but also emerges stronger for the general election. 

The early release of such a large email trove is the first test of that proposition. It’s laudable, political, and risky. Bush is dropping a candor bomb that all voters of any party should applaud. Presidential campaigns have seen a vast drop in planned candor over the years. Candidates are terrified that the few interesting words that fall out of their mouths will appear on video somewhere or will be tweeted out of context. So their campaigns desperately try to keep them from ever saying any of them. They certainly don’t want a lot of easy access to emails that might show what candidates look like when they have their guards down.

As voters though, we should encourage this kind of candor. It tells us something about how candidates work, how their ideas are formed, and how they operate in their actual jobs. That is a window into the attributes they’ll actually bring in office. So much of what gets discussed in presidential campaigns is not that. Given this level of candor, though, it will also be a test of the Bush gambit: Will voters and the press read these emails in context, or will they single out a line in the 250,000 messages to define Bush out of all proportion and reason?

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George W. is the high water mark for Republicans with Latinos these days; exit polls show he got 44 percent of their votes in his reelection race, though others have suggested its closer to 40 percent.

I dug up some exit poll numbers from 1998 to see how the younger Bush did with Latinos and other Democratic constituencies in his second race for Florida governor. He won  that one — 55 percent to 45 percent — after losing four years earlier.

Bush did very, very well among Hispanics, beating the Democratic candidate, Buddy McKay, 61 to 38 percent among Latinos. That’s a huge number.  But keep in mind that in Florida, especially in 1998, the Latinos who were going to the polls were often conservative, with Cubans dominating the Latino vote. Nationally,  Latino voters are increasingly more Democratic-leaning, with two-thirds having roots in Mexico.

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But as Jeb Bush considers his own presidential campaign, deep-red South Carolina — which he visited on Monday — offers a case study in how dramatically the political waters have shifted since his older brother and father entered the White House…

Since George W. Bush’s 2000 primary victory, South Carolina’s Republican electorate has become decidedly more libertarian, with fiscal conservatives demanding purity from candidates and enjoying a louder voice in state politics than social conservatives.

“Fourteen years is a lifetime in politics,” Moore said. “The party is getting younger. We’ve had a huge influx of libertarian-minded Republicans. Any candidate who wants to be successful in South Carolina has to find a way to connect across that broad swath of the Republican Party.”…

“We’re much more conservative than we were in 2000,” Tompkins said. “There’s a perception that [Jeb Bush] is a moderate. Here, we’re a classic three legs of a stool primary electorate: you’ve got to be right on social issues, on fiscal issues and on foreign affairs. You’ve got to navigate all those waters. His challenge will be to prove that he’s fundamentally sound and in sync with us here.”

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By the time 2016 rolls around, it will have been eight years since the previous Bush presided over an economic disaster. The economy may have mostly recovered, but it is drastically more unequal. What is Bush’s cheerleading going to do for that? Does anyone think the GOP needs another captain of private equity to be its leader? And as loathsome and un-American as it may seem to hold someone’s family name against him, this point needs to be emphasized: the GOP and the country don’t need another Bush…

Nominating Jeb Bush is an implied admission that the GOP cannot put together a post-Reagan presidential coalition without this one family. It would mean advertising that the party that just put together an impressive, across-the-board electoral comeback in 2014, and that has performed unusually well in gubernatorial races several cycles running, is bereft of talent and must rely on an older brand — one that people tired of twice. Republicans should reject these assumptions about their party, no matter how desperate eight years out of the White House has made them.

The last few years have been ones of experimentation for the party. There is the libertarian-inflected Rand Paul; there are Chris Christies and Scott Walkers who promise dramatic confrontations with public bureaucracy. There is the family-friendly wonkery of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. If people want to try Bushism again, they should at least have the decency to demand that Marco Rubio’s face be stretched over that political zombie’s head.

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In a television interview aired on the eve of the South Carolina appearance, Bush expressed confidence that he “would be a good president,” adding that he was in the process of writing an e-book about his time as governor that would come out in the spring. He also said he would make public about 250,000 emails from his time in office, in an effort to promote transparency and to “let people make up their mind,” he told ABC’s Miami affiliate WPLG-TV.

Bush said going through the material has reminded him that “if you run with big ideas and then you’re true to those ideas, and get a chance to serve and implement them and do it with passion and conviction, you can move the needle. … And that’s what we need right now in America.”

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