Republicans are realizing that Jeb Bush is their only option in 2016

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.