Jeb—No Ordinary Bush

June 18th, 2015

With twelve candidates currently vying for the Republican nomination for president (and more to come), I personally remain undecided about who to support. That’s because nearly all of the current crop of candidates have both positives and negatives that make choosing difficult.

For former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who announced officially on Monday, one of his positives is also his biggest negative and that is of course that his last name is Bush.

Being a member of the Bush family gives Jeb access to resources that any other presidential candidate can only dream about.  Many years ago, when I was State Chairman of the Texas Young Republicans, a colleague of mine and I visited the office of George W. Bush, who was then the sitting president’s son and asked him to sign a fundraising letter for us.  Very kindly, he agreed to consider it.  I’ll never forget his reaction when he looked at the list we’d compiled of potential donor recipients.

“Where did you get this list?” he asked us.

It was indeed impressive (and I have no idea where we got it having been handed it by the preceding Chair).  At the time, I only thought it was a good list.  My suspicion was confirmed by George W. Bush’s reaction.  He knew a good list when he saw it because his family had a master list when it came to fundraising, not just for Texas but for the entire country.

They still do.  And on the Democrat side these days, there is only one family who could match ownership of such a valuable resource and that’s the Clintons.

So that’s a clear advantage and a positive for Jeb Bush.  The Bush family has all the resources it could possibly want to run a national race for president. They know where the money is and they know how to conduct a nationwide presidential contest having done it three times where the name at the top of the ticket was “Bush.”

The negative, of course, is that Jeb is a Bush.  As his mother famously pointed out months ago, there are 350 million people in this country.  Our forefathers fought the British to put an end to a monarch running the show. Wouldn’t it be almost tragic for the country to come to a place where power is simply passed back and forth between two families?

Oddly enough, for Jeb Bush this negative on its face is almost completely wiped out by the fact that the likely candidate on the other side is none other than Hillary Clinton who has the same sort of dynastic issue he does.  For Jeb, this is a gift but it’s also potentially a prize for Hillary since in a campaign against any other Republican candidate she would be forced to address the dynasty charge as well.

So if it comes down to a showdown between Jeb and Hillary, who wins?  The conventional wisdom currently is Hillary since she’d be the first woman to win that office and the Democrats appear to hold a slight advantage in the Electoral College.

That’s the snap analysis of the race.  Dig a little deeper and Jeb might actually have the edge.

For starters, Jeb is no ordinary Bush.

Throughout his life, Jeb Bush has carved his own path and made every effort to be his own man.  Unlike his father and brother, he attended college at the University of Texas in Austin.  He travelled to Mexico on a student trip where he met his eventual wife, Columba.  Rather than remain safely in the family’s Texas political base, Jeb settled after college in Miami, Florida, where he went into the real estate business and eventually ran and won for governor.  Unless you’re a Florida Democrat, likely you believe he was a good governor.

The fact that Bush’s wife is Hispanic and that he speaks fluent Spanish is also a plus for him in that it likely offers Republicans an opportunity to even the playing field on the electoral map.  I don’t really think I appreciated how much it might be helpful until yesterday when a friend of mine who is Hispanic and was appearing up until Monday to lean heavily towards Hillary Clinton told me she’d vote for Jeb because of his wife. If that’s anecdotal evidence of a trend then it might bode well for the Republicans in swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada.

Just before his campaign rollout, the media was making much of the fact that Jeb doesn’t use the word “Bush” in his logo.  He didn’t use it running for governor either, and he doesn’t need to anyway if for no other reason than it’s already part of his nickname.  “Jeb” stands for John Ellis Bush, so if he feels he’s somehow betraying the family name by leaving Bush off the bumper stickers, he can take comfort in the fact that it’s subliminally already there.

Jeb Bush is probably the only current Republican candidate secretly cheering on the increasing number of GOP candidates in the field since his money and percentage of electoral support baked in the primaries probably remains steady with everyone else forced to divide up what’s left.

Given that, if this were a horse race, Jeb Bush would clearly be the favorite although not a particularly exciting one at this point.  That presents both a challenge and an opportunity for one of the other candidates in the race to emerge. It will take a special candidate under the circumstances to accomplish such a feat, but if that’s what happens it will be to the benefit of the GOP in the general election.

All of this makes the 2016 race for the White House one of the most interesting in recent memory and one of the toughest to ultimately predict.

 



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