As accomplished as Jeb Bush is, the notion that he’d be the party’s strongest contender against Clinton is fanciful—and that’s if he could even manage to get out of a primary. He hasn’t won an election since 2002, he’s proven slow to adapt to the new media landscape and navigating the waters between establishment leadership and the tea-party grassroots. Most importantly, his last name carries significant baggage. Given the pervasive anti-insider environment, would voters elect a third member of the same family? As the nominee, he’d protect Clinton from her biggest vulnerabilities.
As I wrote last month, Bush’s protégé Rubio is the candidate to watch closely given his natural political talent and ability to rack up conservative chits while also remaining in the establishment’s good graces. Next Tuesday, the Florida senator is giving a speech on retirement security at the National Press Club—a smart course correction from his ill-advised focus on immigration throughout much of 2013. He’s emerging as a leading GOP foreign policy voice critical of the Obama administration, an essential asset for 2016—especially if Clinton is the nominee and runs on her record as secretary of State. In this hyper-scrutinizing media and political environment, Rubio has the potential celebrity star power to match Clinton and generate Republican excitement.