Maybe we should take this deal. The GOP establishment seems to have decided at some point that America needs a member of the Bush nuclear family on the Republican ticket every 10 years or so. Pushing the “Bush slot” down from number one down to number two is at least a step in the right direction. Keep that downward trend going and who knows? Maybe the Bushes will be content with cabinet posts circa 2040 or so.
Terrible thought: Would making Jeb VP in 2016 simply make a Jeb 2024 campaign that much more inevitable? Gulp.
“Jeb would be perfectly acceptable to the base if the nominee is a proven conservative,” said a prominent Republican consultant. “If it’s [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie or some moderate, Jeb would be a no go. On the other hand, if a right-wing nominee wanted to make a bow towards the middle and add some Hispanic vote appeal, Jeb would be a good choice.”…
“Jeb could be a safe choice for anybody,” said [Stu] Spencer, who worked for three Republican presidents. “He has name ID, a Spanish background, [is] a former governor, and he’s conservative.”…
“A straight-up tea-party ticket cannot win,” adds one of the GOP’s most prominent fundraisers. “Too many Republicans and independents will just flat-out not vote for a ticket with two tea-party guys. It will not happen.”
And if he has to campaign for only three months as a veep nominee instead of more than two years swimming upstream to be president, a senior Bush family source predicts his wife would sign off. “Being picked for president-in-waiting would be ideal for him and his family,” the consultant said.
My favorite line comes from a member of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles: “Jeb Bush would deliver Florida for Republicans, increase our ability to raise money, and is practically Hispanic.” That’s the real box for the 2016 ticket that he checks, of course — not that he’s a Bush but that he’s “practically Hispanic,” as it’s a cinch that the GOP will try to make up ground with Latino voters next time by nominating a Latino Republican for president or vice president. That means Susana Martinez, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz. Or Jeb.
But which presidential nominee could get away with making Bush his number two? If it’s true that the base won’t stand for a ticket comprised of two moderates (I don’t think it is, but whatever), then realistically that means Cruz, Scott Walker, or Rand Paul. Cruz would be reluctant to do it, I think, even though it would help heal the rift with the establishment after a brutal primary just because he’s so invested in protecting his conservative credentials. It would be weird to see the tea party’s favorite senator shock the world by winning the nomination and then, in his first big move as nominee, turn around and make a famous RINO his second-in-command. There are ways he could sell that to conservatives — Ronald Reagan added a RINO named Bush to his own ticket in the interest of winning, didn’t he? — but it wouldn’t be true to his brand. Walker is a better bet, but if he runs an outsider-versus-insider campaign against the Clintons, having a Bush on the ticket with him would be less than helpful. Why would he choose Bush, who might overshadow him, when he could choose Martinez or Rubio? Walker will also have the advantage of being more or less acceptable to establishmentarians, so he could afford to bypass a big-name centrist like Jeb in favor of someone more obscure.
Which brings us to Paul, the most interesting man in the field here (as always). Paul and Cruz get lumped together because they both champion tea partiers and will be competing for right-wing votes, but they’re positioned differently vis-a-vis the establishment. Cruz’s brand is rejectionist; he’s going to run to the right as an unapologetic conservative and see if he can build a movement that even the donor class can’t bury. Paul’s brand, however, is accommodationist. He’s the guy who backed Mitch McConnell against Matt Bevin, he’s the guy who’s been chattering lately about how U.S. airstrikes in Iraq might be acceptable, he’s the guy who’s forever preaching that the GOP needs a bigger tent and that only his brand of libertarianism can reach across the aisle. His great fear is that the donor class will see him as such a loose cannon that they won’t go to bat for him even in the general election against Hillary. Nothing would calm those fears and signal “accommodation” like putting a Bush brother on the ticket. Libertarians would grumble that he was selling out and beginning to drift left towards the Beltway’s center of gravity, but having him as nominee would leave them closer to real power than they’d ever been. They’d tolerate it. Conservatives would be grumpy too, mainly because they disdain Jeb, but no one except the hawkiest of hawks is going to cross the aisle and vote Hillary because they’re not crazy about a Paul/Bush ticket.
Imagine the inauguration, with proud dad Ron chatting about foreign policy with happy brother George W. Electric.