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Five reasons Jeb Bush would be a strong 2016 presidential contender | Harry J Enten

Jeb Bush looks a lot like winning nominees of years past and not just because of his last name. He could unite all parts of the GOP

A few weeks ago, I asked if Republicans could find their next George W Bush. That is, someone who could unite the Republican party and present a 2016 ticket that could appeal to the general electorate. I don’t know who that candidate is, but I have a good idea who Republicans think it might be: former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Bush, in my opinion, matches the criteria that I look to in predicting which nominees are chosen.

1. He is next in line

When you look back at who Republicans choose, a pattern quickly emerges. Every candidate in the modern nominating era has some very strong relationship to the presidency. They had either run for it before, been the president or vice-president, or been a familial relation to a president. They were the obvious next choice.

Republicans seem to like to pick candidates who are familiar to them. People’s who name can be trusted. Jeb Bush’s name is obviously familiar to many Republicans. Besides being the son of one president and the brother of another, Bush has been on the national stage for 20 years. As I said back before, this isn’t an iron clad rule, but it seems to hold.

2.He is well liked by the establishment

I can’t stress this one enough. Anytime there’s a clear establishment favorite, he wins.

Endorsements help because they send a signal to voters who might be confused in a field of candidates who often sound a lot alike. Another way of saying this is that endorsements lend credibility to a candidacy. At the same time, party insiders can help deflate the hopes of insurgents. Remember how many people came out against Newt Gingrich when he was rising in the polls in 2012?

Jeb Bush would likely win the most endorsements because he is the embodiment of the party establishment. Back in 2012, Jeb Bush held out on endorsing any Republican until he broke his silence in late March. He endorsed Romney and told Republicans “now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney”.

Bush’s endorsement started an endorsement wave of sorts for Romney including popular senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Paul Ryan, the libertarian from Kentucky. Romney won three of the next four primaries, including in the key midwestern states of Illinois and Wisconsin. Conservative rival Rick Santorum’s money dried up, and he quit his campaign by early April.

3. He is a proven winner in a swing state

I can’t think of anything scarier to a voter than putting up a candidate who they’re not sure what they’re going to say next. That’s why former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich couldn’t last in 2012. It’s why Anthony Weiner’s campaign is falling apart in 2013. Voters like to know what’s coming.

This is especially the case after Romney decided to open his mouth when he thought the general wasn’t listening and uttered his infamous 47% line. Romney had only had won a statewide office once and left the state with approvals that only a masochist could enjoy.

Bush was governor of a large state for eight years and won easily both times. You can argue that he’s flip-flopped between a pathway to citizenship or legal residency for undocumented immigrants, but he has no real skeletons of which I’m aware. Besides, his immigration flip is far smaller than being pro-choice and pro-life like Romney.

You can see how well Bush did in Florida by looking at the numbers. He has an impressive +21 net favorable rating among all voters in Florida, which is higher than any elected official in the state. That’s unchanged from his net approval rating during his final year in office. His net favorable among Republican is +81, higher than the very high Marco Rubio.

4. He is trusted by conservatives

I often talk about ideology in terms of scores and statistics, but there’s another way to look at it. Ideology is often how voters feel about you. Mitt Romney wasn’t able to get Republican primary voters to trust him easily. Because of Romneycare, abortion flip-flops, and confusing stances on gay rights, Romney had to sell his conservatism hard. That likely hurt him in the general election.

Bush doesn’t have that problem. Because of point 3, Bush is trusted by conservatives. He doesn’t need to say certain things to make the base go gaga. They know what they’re getting. You can get a good idea of this by looking at the favorable ratings in the latest Public Policy Polling survey (pdf) of Republican primary voters.

Assigning undecideds based upon those already decided, Bush scores a 77% overall with a 73% rating among Republican moderates, 82% among somewhat conservative voters, and 80% among very conservative voters. Most of the other possible candidates have flaws among one sector of the Republican primary electorate. No other candidate has the type of long record that Bush has to make me believe the numbers will hold.

5. His true ideology looks like what one would expect for a winner for the nomination and general

After losing two presidential races in a row, parties tend to nominate candidates who are more moderate than prior nominees. Jimmy Carter was more moderate than McGovern, Clinton was more moderate than Dukakis, and Bush was more moderate than Dole.

Jeb Bush is actually to the left of every possible nominee per ideological scoring except for New Jersey Chris Christie and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Noticeably, Bush isn’t too far to the left. The distance between Bush and Romney is about half the gap between Christie and Romney. He’s not too far of a jump to Republicans, yet can give Republicans reassurances that he gives them a better shot in the general election.

Speaking of the general election, his stances on immigration and issues overall likely will help him somewhat. Ideology is vastly overrated in terms of winning election. Still, it can make a one or two point difference, which is all you need in a very close election.

Conclusion: I don’t know if Jeb Bush will run. I’d probably bet against. But if he does run, he’d be uniquely positioned to win the nomination. He’s liked by all parts of his party and has the ideological makeup to suggest that he could do well in a general election as well. © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Jeb Bush in 2016? Not as Crazy as it Seems.

A few weeks ago, I argued that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was not well placed to win the Republican nomination (and especially the general election) in 2016. In the months (and years) to come, I plan to review the prospects for other potential candidates to win their party’s nomination and ultimately the White House.

This piece focuses on Jeb Bush’s chances of winning in 2016, following his recent announcement that he now opposes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. I take this reversal of positions for Mr. Bush to be an indication that he is seriously considering a run for the White House in 2016.

I come to this conclusion based on the following logic: If Mr. Bush is NOT considering running, what incentive is there to come out against a legal path to citizenship at this point in time, when such an announcement could negatively affect the current effort at achieving any reform? (Remember, Mr. Bush did not come out against all immigration reform, just reform that includes a path to citizenship.) Mr. Bush’s announcement could have the effect of impeding any bill from passing. Therefore, Mr. Bush must assume that their is something to be achieved by switching positions (i.e. being better positioned to run for president in 2016.) In other words, it simply does not make sense for Mr. Bush to make such an announcement unless he is considering running for president in 2016.

In this post, I compare Mr. Bush to Mr. Rubio on each of the points I emphasized in the last article, arguing that Mr. Bush is better placed to win the nomination (and the general) in 2016 than Mr. Rubio. Then, I will discuss a final caveat that relates to Mr. Bush’s prospects in 2016.


1. Too liberal (on immigration)?: With his recent announcement that he opposes citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Mr. Bush has placed himself to the right of Mr. Rubio (as well as Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan) on this issue which is of great importance in the Iowa caucuses. Yet Mr. Bush did not rule out other legal statuses for undocumented immigrants, allowing him to pivot back to the center should he win the GOP nomination. (Whether a stance that falls short of citizenship is centrist enough for a general election is debatable.) As I discuss in a later section, Mr. Bush’s ideology is one of a mainstream conservative. With this announcement on immigration, he has moved away from the one stance he held that was a deal-breaker for many conservative caucusgoers in the Hawkeye State. Indeed, making this announcement three years before the caucuses looks more like principle than opportunism than if Bush made the announcement after a (possible) failure of the current reform effort.

2. Primary schedule: While members of the Bush family have struggled in the New Hampshire primary in the past, the South Carolina primary gave George W. Bush a needed victory over Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in 2000. The primary schedule is most favorable to Mr. Bush not due to the placement of specific contests, but rather due to the fact that he would have access to the funds needed to wage a long, drawn-out primary campaign. As the son and brother of former presidents, Mr. Bush could build a campaign apparatus that could compete in every state. In the last primary campaign, one of the “non-Romney” candidates’ biggest problems was raising enough money to compete in a several month long campaign.

3. Scandal/Corruption: This category is most important to Mr. Bush in that his access to financial resources would allow him to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents, including Mr. Rubio. It was the famed Republican operative Lee Atwater who ran Mr. Bush’s father’s campaign and it is hard to forget the negative messaging that John McCain faced in the 2000 South Carolina primary. In other words, the Bushes (and their supporters) know that politics ain’t beanbag.

4. It is his (Bush’s) turn: Either a Bush or a Dole was on the ballot for the Republican Party for the president or vice president in every election from 1976 to 2004. It’s Jeb’s turn because it is (almost) always a Bush’s turn. Furthermore, in every presidential election since 1964 the Republicans have nominated someone who has run for president before, with the lone exception of 2000 when the GOP nominated George W. Bush. (Indeed, there was no viable GOP candidate in 2000 that had run for president before.)

The Republican Party is like that person who always orders the same thing every time they go to a restaurant. Republicans (particularly party elders) like orderly politics because it is, well, conservative. While George W. Bush had a less-than-ideal last few years in office, the Bush name still goes a long way with GOP primary regulars.

General Election:

5. Too conservative for the general?: Unfortunately, DW-Nominate scores do not exist for governors, so we cannot make a direct ideological comparison to Mr. Rubio, Mr. Ryan, or Mr. Paul. However, Nate Silver of the New York Times has suggested a way to calculate the ideology of governors based on issue positions listed on the website While admittedly a crude metric, one can use scores on individual issues on this website to calculate a rough estimate of where each governor stands and how they compare to their fellow governors, which can then be converted to a 100 point scale (where 0 is most liberal and 100 is most conservative).

Using this method, I find that Mr. Bush scores in the mid-80s (out of 100). Compared to other current or recent Republican governors, Mr. Bush is at the middle of the pack. He is certainly not as conservative as someone like Rick Scott (also of Florida) who scores a 91, but is more conservative than (former Governor) Mitch Daniels of Indiana who scores a 74.

In many ways, a good way to think about Mr. Bush ideologically is by using his brother as a proxy. In other words, Mr. Bush is a certainly a conservative, but is not completely outside the mainstream of American politics. While the country has certainly changed since 2000 and 2004, it is likely that Mr. Bush would at least be competitive in a general election. After eight years of a Democratic President, the nation may once again turn to a Bush. At the very least, Bush stands a better chance in a general election than Marco Rubio, who is clearly to the right of even most Republican politicians on most issues (not to mention the broader electorate).


6. Is Bush too stale? If anything holds back Mr. Bush from winning in 2016, it is more likely than not a staleness of the Bush brand and the fact that Mr. Bush has passed his (political) prime. Having left the Florida Governorship in 2007, Mr. Bush would have been out of elective office for almost a decade come 2016. This is certainly a concern and may be the biggest factor preventing a Bush candidacy. Overall, Mr. Bush stands a better chance than Mr. Rubio to win the Republican nomination and also would be in a stronger position to win a general election.

Will America elect a third Bush to the White House? With Mr. Bush’s recent switch on immigration, which indicates he may actually want to run, along with his overall strength as a candidate, such an occurrence is a real possibility.