While immigration is often cited as Bush’s biggest problem with the conservative base, his support for the education standards in the Common Core has actually caused more trouble this year, inciting heckling protests outside some events and grumbling inside the party. With his education advisers, Bush has regular conversations about the issue. Some of his aides have attempted to understand why the matter provokes so much grassroots anger and have talked about trying to reframe his position to express support of higher standards, although it’s a fight Bush would welcome as a presidential candidate. In private meetings, when pressed on both the substance and the politics, Bush pushes back hard.
Then there’s the persistent chatter that three generation of Bush women don’t want any part of another White House run. Barbara’s icy dismissals of a Candidate Jeb (“we’ve had enough Bushes”) have made both national news and late-night laugh fodder. One source, however, who recently spent time with the former first lady says, in fact, she has shifted from unalterably opposed to “neutral,” in part because of how much her ailing husband wants to see their son in the Oval Office. (A spokesman for former President Bush 41 and Mrs. Bush, Jim McGrath, says, her tart comments shrugging off a Jeb candidacy were “about there being no sense of entitlement. She said countless times that Jeb would make a superb president. Nothing has changed.”)
Barbara Bush’s previous skepticism, according to numerous sources, was grounded in concern that daughter-in-law Columba Bush would not take well to the harsh spotlight of either a coast-to-coast campaign or life in Washington. Jeb’s wife is said to be shy, private, and sensitive to ridicule she received for struggling to transition from her native Spanish to English. But lately Columba has inched closer to the spotlight, participating in a few public events and in family activities in Kennebunkport, providing some reassurance to those closest to Jeb. Columba has been traveling with her husband on some international trips, attended at least one board dinner with him in New York this year, and, according to an intimate, has been more actively engaged in her husband’s public policy work in the last 12 months than she has been in five or six years.