The Republican establishment, such as it is, has the right to back Jeb if they think he can win. The grassroots has the right to oppose him. Let it be a fight if he chooses it.
What is jelling into a cliché is true: Jeb Bush’s problem is not immigration per se. That issue is still dynamic; people are arguing and thinking it through. Jeb has an argument to make. When he told an interviewer last weekend that some illegal immigration can be seen as “an act of love,” I read of it and assumed it was an act of phony eloquence—insufficient, tin-eared, a sign that he’d grown rusty. But then I saw the interview. It was clear he was simply expressing a sincere respect for, and a kind of bond with, immigrants who have crossed the border to get the job that will feed the family. I thought of how I would experience his comments if I were here illegally or had a family member who was. I’d appreciate it, a lot. I’d hear what he said as a signal of empathy and understanding. I’d think he was saying “have a heart,” which is what Rick Perry said in 2012. And that’s not the worst thing a Republican could say right now, is it?
Jeb Bush’s real problem, and not just with members of the tea party, is his early and declared support for the Common Core national school curriculum. He decided to back federal standards for what should be taught in the public schools at the exact moment the base of the Republican Party had had it up to here with federal anything.