One should never underestimate Republicans’ ability to be boring and predictable. But there’s good reason to believe the “inevitable” candidate this time around is far from inevitable.
First, almost all of the previous “inevitable” establishment candidates won before the Tea Party reshaped the GOP. K Street and party leadership used to hold fundraising monopolies. That’s no longer true. Super PACs, internet fundraising and other developments have decentralized fundraising and thus neutered the party establishment.
Jeb also faces a much tougher challenge than his predecessors did. Marco Rubio isn’t a divisive figure like Rick Santorum was in 2012. He’s got more conservative street-cred than Romney did in 2008 or McCain did in 2000, and he’s a better politician than Huckabee was in 2008. And unlike Pat Buchanan (who, by the way, won New Hampshire once), Rubio is an elected official with significant establishment backing.
Even Ted Cruz — two years junior to Rubio in Washington, and far more divisive — is a more serious contender than the anti-establishment candidates of years past.