Yes, it happened. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is “actively” exploring a possible 2016 candidacy. Needless to say, conservatives aren’t happy. Sen. Rand Paul has already begun attacking Bush, but the former governor is convinced he’s a mainstream conservative. Yet, his potential candidacy looks fragile–even more so than Mitt Romney. Bush supports Common Core, immigration reform, walks a waffled path on climate change, and is sort of open to tax increases.
“If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach,” he once said in 2012. Bush gave his answer on a hypothetical budget deal at a congressional hearing, which had spending cuts and tax increases.
Again, more than a few Republicans might find this as rational, but to the base–this is anathema. He also never signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to oppose tax increases.
In Politico, they wrote how Cato Institute found that government spending increased 45 percent under his administration, though Bush’s allies claim the uptick was due to disastrous weather the struck the Sunshine State during his tenure. Yet, the piece also pointed out some of Jeb’s strong points as well:
It’s not that any of the friction from the right is a surprise to Bush. Even though his allies say he did, in fact, have a conservative record as Florida governor — cutting taxes by $19.3 billion, building the state’s reserves to $9 billion and streamlining regulations — they say his statement about “losing the primary to win the general” was meant to signal that he’s not going to change to please the right.
In some respects, Bush would be an unlikely candidate to be accused of being soft of tax increases. As governor, he cut levies on businesses, investments, large estates and homes.
Campbell [Spokesperson Kristy Campbell] says Bush “does not support tax increases” and that “his record on fiscal issues is clear,” especially with his deep cuts in Florida. And not all conservative activists have a problem with Bush’s record. The conservative Club for Growth said it is willing to hear Bush out, saying it could abide tax increases if they got major spending cuts or an overhaul of the Tax Code in return.
The article also mentioned that Bush supports repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a Republican alternative. Yet, he’s critical of the defunding strategy to undercut the law. On climate change, Mr. Bush has positioned himself as a skeptic, but warned how this issue could make Republicans look “anti-science.”
His embrace of Common Core will surely rub conservatives the wrong way–and he’s made no indication that he would compromise to suck up to the right of the Republican Party.
As the Wall Street Journal wrote back in June, he was warned by an aide to avoid referencing Common Core at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2013, he simply said, “I respect those that don't agree with me," he told the group gathered in Chicago. "What I can't accept are dumbing [sic] down standards and expectations."
Last April, he told Fox News, "I just don't feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country. And others have, others that supported the standards all of a sudden are opposed to it."
To be fair, Common Core isn’t the brainchild of the left:
Created by a bipartisan group of governors and adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, Common Core was designed to boost academic achievement and allow for comparisons across states. One goal was to hand power back to the states to implement standards called for in President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law. But after President Barack Obama tied the disbursal of federal education grants to states adopting Common Core, conservatives revolted.
So, Jeb has some advantages; he doesn’t like Obamacare; he’s pro-life; he cut taxes as governor; and he’s leading in the polls, but that’s without Romney being factored into the equation.
Still, to quote A&E’s Storage Wars, there’s no “wow” factor with Bush. If anything, he’s like Mitt Romney, but only with a backbone.
Regardless, this looks like a campaign that can quickly venture towards rocky shoals.
On immigration, Bush said, “yes, they [illegal immigrants] broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love, it’s an act of commitment to your family.” He also supports background checks at gun shows, which isn’t going bode well with the NRA.
The Democrats are already trying to find dirty laundry belonging to any potential Republican in the 2016 crop. While American Bridge, which compiled a 900+ page opposition research paper on Romney in 2012, noted that Jeb could fundraise well. Yet, his work with Lehman Brothers and Barclays could reopen old wounds from the Bush administration. Whether we like it or not, the financial collapse happened in the twilight of Bush’s second term. That’s the sticking point. Bush’s presidency grappled with the financial industry’s potential demise, which led to the passage TARP. It also helped Obama trounce McCain 2008, which led to the stimulus in 2009. The Bush name is roped in with one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory and TARP. The latter of which is also anathema to the Tea Party.
Then again, National Journal noted that such dealings with Lehman and Barclays is relatively unknown. If there’s something, it will be made public. The article noted that Florida has good public-record keeping laws–and Jeb would release 250,000 emails during his time as governor. This all could be one huge nothing burger regarding Jeb’s work in the financial sector. And if he’s as certain about sticking to his guns about Common Core, it’s probably something–in Jeb’s view–that he feels won’t be as bad as the Democrats’ flaying of Romney via Bain Capital.
Charles Cooke over at National Review wrote a piece on why Jeb is not our guy in 2016. He also cited the Lehman-Bush obstacle as well:
As it stands, the Republican party has not won a presidential election without a Bush on the top of the ticket since 1984, and it has not won the presidency without a Bush somewhere on the ticket since 1972. If Jeb were elected president, it would be the case that, for three decades, one family had been in charge of the country each and every time the electorate moved in its party’s direction. What, I wonder, would that say about conservatism? And what, I wonder, would it say about America writ large if, 36 years after George H. W. was first sworn in as vice president, the Right concluded that the only way that it could credibly win power was to tap into the same, oft-pumped well?
Dynastic objections aside, it strikes me also that Jeb is almost perfectly wrong for this moment in American history. Without doubt, he is a talented, upstanding, and accomplished man, and he would probably do an admirable job if he parachuted into power. But, this being hardball democratic politics, and not the Biography Channel, there are many, many more questions for us to consider. In 2012, a weak President Obama not only managed to draw an astonishing amount of blood simply by riffing on Mitt Romney’s remarkable business career, but, with a little help from Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, was able to adroitly leverage the still-tender memories of the recent financial collapse and to paint his opponent as a detached, Gilded Age demon. Presumably, Bush would get precisely the same treatment. Just a few months ago, he teamed up with a bunch of Wall Street bankers and started a private-equity fund that will specialize in oil and gas. A few years ago, moreover, he worked with Lehman Brothers until, in the heat of the 2008 financial crisis that is still largely blamed on his brother, it collapsed in ignominious disgrace. Fair or unfair, what exactly do we imagine the story will be if the next Republican candidate is not only vulnerable in this area in his own right, but has the surname “Bush” to boot?
Also, history is against Bush. He possibly waited too long to mount a serious run for the White House. When 2016 comes around, the gap between Jeb's last successful election (2002) and 2016 will be 14 years. The last president that had the same gap in time between his last winning campaign and clinching the presidency was 150 years ago with Abraham Lincoln. His last victorious campaign before winning the presidential election of 1860 was his 1846 congressional run.
If Mr. Bush becomes more serious about 2016, he faces some rather staggering obstacles.