Which is why we’ll see the media coverage of the Republican presidential race coalesce, and soon, around a single question: Is Bush actually the front-runner, or just a guy with a lot of money trying to buy the nomination?
A dozen or so Republican operatives and donors I spoke with last week, most of them open to a Bush candidacy, didn’t have a clue how that question will be ultimately be answered, but it’s a decisive one, and they are antsy to find out. The early polls, which show Jeb getting clobbered in Iowa, barely ahead — if at all — in New Hampshire, and trading a narrow lead nationally with his fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, are predicting a ferociously competitive campaign. But who knows how it will play out when Bush actually announces? “A month ago, the whole story was that Hillary was rusty, that she hadn’t been out there doing anything,” said a veteran GOP operative who worked on one of George W. Bush’s campaigns. “Well, she’s been out there taking hits for a month. Jeb hasn’t. It’s time to get this thing going.”
Nicolle Wallace, a White House communications director to George W. Bush who started her political life as a 25-year-old adviser to Jeb Bush in Florida, also sees undeniable parallels with the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. “I think some of their strengths are parallel. Some of their strengths are on the policy side, not the retail political side. I think some of their strengths are in a room, not on a stage,” she told me during a taping of last week’s POLITICO podcast.