Margin of Σrror

Margin of Σrror -

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.

Establishment v insurgent: the Capitol’s new political dynamic | Harry J Enten

The old left-right ideological model for how Congress votes has lost explanatory power. Something different is afoot in US politics

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a lot about ideology and polarization. Most of that has focused on the left-right differences. But there’s another shaping theme in politics that is also present: establishment v insurgent.

Presidential campaigns, for example, usually come down to those who are backed by the establishment and those who are not. The candidates backed by the establishment usually win, and the outsiders almost always lose. It’s the main thesis of the great book The Party Decides.

That’s why many political scientists thought that Mitt Romney winning the bulk of congressional endorsements for the Republican nomination in 2012 meant that he would almost certainly capture the nomination. His establishment support came from both left and right of the party, and was actually slightly more conservative than either Gingrich’s or Santorum’s, despite Romney donor profiles indicating that his public was moderate.

Twelve years prior, George W Bush triumphed over the moderate John McCain on the back of establishment support. Likewise, Hillary Clinton saw her 2008 hopes fade because of her inability to lock up support from establishment congressional leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.

No one can doubt that this establishment v insurgent dynamic has been present in Congress for a while, but “DW-nominate” scores indicate that this dichotomy is becoming increasingly important. These scores seek to rank congressional members’ ideology in two dimensions, based on their rollcall voting record. In my previous analyses of polarization, I’ve used the first dimension, which usually does a good job at placing members on the liberal-to-conservative spectrum. The second dimension has rarely been used in recent years because it hasn’t seemed to stand for anything.

In the past Congress, however, the second dimension has begun to have more explanatory power – among Republicans, especially. That is, something beyond just being conservative or liberal is beginning to predict voting patterns of congressmen and women. The vote-view folks and I think that this dimension is along an establishment v anti-establishment axis, though one might also argue that it is geographically based – since many insurgent Tea Party members are from the American south.

Consider the debt ceiling debate of 2011. People on both the liberal and conservative side of the aisle supported the bill. Oddly, House Democrats and Senate Republicans were the two groups most likely to oppose the bill.

If the voting had been strictly along partisan lines, we’d expect the best fit line to be straight up and down. That is, the vote could easily be determined as being to the left or to the right. Instead, we have more of a diagonal line that goes from upper left to lower right in the House and upper right to lower left in the Senate. What that means is that there are liberal and conservative elements behind the voting, but there is also something else happening. You might call it a rather strange vote in which the Tea Party caucus, progressive caucus, and black caucus voted all together – though, arguably, it could be explained as establishment House Democrats and establishment House Republicans voting together. In other words, how many times can we expect John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer, Kevin McCarthy, Nancy Pelosi, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz all to vote the same way on a relatively divided debate?

The coalition was slightly different with the recent fiscal cliff vote, yet it displayed a similar pattern. Again, there was a left-to-right element, with more Democrats voting in favor this time. But there was also a “second dimension” element.

The lines are, again, diagonal. The differences among Democrats largely disappeared, but they were as present as ever among Republicans. The “establishment” Republicans largely voted in lockstep with one another, while the anti-establishment folks also banded together, voting the other way. The fit is certainly not perfect, with establishment figures like Cantor and McCarthy voting no – thought that actually matches well with the press coverage afterward declaring that Cantor’s vote indicated a break with the establishment leadership, rather than the fact that he’d newly discovered a conservative soul.

This divide between establishment v anti-establishment was present throughout the 112th Congress. Whether it was the 2012 omnibus bill, or the highway and student loan funding bill of 2012, outsiders such as blue-staters Michele Bachmann and Marco Rubio voted alongside southerner Rand Paul and westerner Mike Lee. Others with similar left-to-right rankings, but who were closer to the establishment, such as Senator John Barasso, Representative Cantor, Representative Billy Long of Missouri, and, yes, even very conservative Mitt Romney-backed Representative Steve King of Iowa often voted the opposite way.

It’s necessary to note that while the insurgents seem to be rising, it was the establishment that won in all the situations. My guess is that they will continue to win, even if they need to adjust. That’s why I’m skeptical about whether we’re really likely to see a “Republican civil war” in the coming years, or even the 2016 presidential nomination season.

In practise, the establishment tends to line up behind the eventual winner of the nomination before a war breaks out. That’s why even the hard-fought 2008 Democratic and 2012 Republican nomination winners became quite clear by the end of February in the nomination seasons. Further, if Republicans do well in 2014, which they should given the midterm landscape, then this should placate those currently calling for heads.

The ability of the party establishment to hold onto power might explain why Paul Ryan voted for the fiscal cliff package. Ryan is pretty far to the right in the left-to-right ideological rankings. He’s even been seen as fairly anti-establishment over the long term. Yet, he voted for each and every one of the “establishment” positions on the four key financial bills discussed here. Ryan may be looking to capitalize on the establishment credentials he built up during his run as vice-presidential nominee. We’ll have to see if his future voting record also supports the idea that he’s shifted toward the establishment.

In the meantime, it looks likely that this establishment v insurgent divide will continue through to the next Congress. The votes for and against John Boehner for house speaker did not split according to the liberal-to-conservative spectrum for Republicans, but rather among the second dimension: between establishment v anti-establishment forces. In short, this should looks set to be yet another unproductive and unwieldy Congress. © 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