Third look at... Jeb Bush?

The discontent over the current GOP field of presidential contenders still shows no signs of abating, and though the filing deadlines for too many states have come and gone, that won’t stop some from hankering for what might have been. Another example comes to us today from Artur Davis at National Review. In it, he lays out a scenario which he describes as not at all implausible, wherein the GOP could still stop the train from plunging off the remains of the railroad trestle and sneak Jeb Bush in the back door.

To be sure, the Jeb scenario will need more instability in order to flourish. The likeliest path involves Gingrich’s momentum carrying him through Florida; the February races in Arizona and Michigan dividing between Romney and Gingrich; Romney rebounding in March in moderate-leaning midwestern states such as Illinois and Wisconsin; Gingrich winning easily in the Deep South on Super Tuesday and Texas in early April, with Romney proving equally strong in New York and the rest of the Atlantic coastline, while states like Ohio and Indiana fail to resolve the split.

Imagine that California’s ultimate showdown leaves Gingrich with the slightest of edges, but with Romney remaining viable and in possession of a broader geographic base, far more internal support from GOP leadership, and a substantial chunk of delegates. To stop Gingrich, Romney might have no practical choice but to offer to throw his support to Bush, whose popularity would also implode Gingrich’s slim plurality.

Well, I suppose anything is possible in theory. People have been positing pretty much the same scenario for Sarah Palin, Chris Christie and Paul Ryan since well before Christmas. But even though Jeb remains a highly popular figure with a big following both in the Sunshine State and in conservative enclaves across the country, I’m not sure how profitable the idea is.

First of all, it would require the younger Bush brother to actually agree to the plan. But he’s been making it clear since very early last year that he’s not interested, at least not right now. (Bush will be 63 years old in 2016, in the event Obama wins a second term, and even at 67 he wouldn’t be out of the question in 2020.) He seems more focused on private sector work at the moment, as well as working on education reform.

Also, it may still be too soon. While conditions have definitely been changing, there is still a bit of a hangover in some quarters regarding his last name. It’s worth remembering that Barack Obama actually ran against George W. Bush in 2008 far more so than John McCain, and it turned out to be a winning formula. (For that matter, Obama is still running against Bush today… a stunning plan considering their policies on a number of issues are virtually identical.) Others have continued to express some hesitation over the idea of legacy dynasties, with a series of Bush and Clinton surnames filling up the roster for decades on end.

And finally, while it’s not outside the realm of possibility, an open convention is still not all that likely, no matter how optimistic Davis is being. The primary waters are certainly very muddy at the moment, but we’re only three states and a handful of delegates into the process. Things really should begin to congeal by some time in February as money begins to run dry and the field narrows further. For now, we should file this one under the wishful thinking category.