Let the Jeb boomlet begin

LET THE JEB BOOMLET BEGIN…. Former two-term Florida Gov. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush (R) has said he’s not going to run for president, at least in 2012, and I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest otherwise. But I suspect we’ll soon see a “Run, Jeb, Run” boomlet anyway.

National Review has a cover story on Jeb Bush in its new issue, and Rich Lowry follows up today with a piece arguing that Jeb should run in 2012, not 2016.

Four years after leaving the Florida governor’s mansion, he remains one of the most impressive Republican politicians in the country, a formidable policy mind with the political chops to drive conservative reforms even out of office. So why isn’t he running for president? Bush told Miller what he’s said to others, too — he won’t run in 2012, but he’ll consider 2016. This is a mistake. Bush should run now…

Oddly enough, I’m not inclined to dismiss the idea out of hand. If the guy’s name was John Ellis Smith instead of John Ellis Bush, I imagine he’d be a leading contender, if not the frontrunner. (Of course, realistically, John Ellis Smith probably wouldn’t have been elected governor in Florida in the first place, so the hypothetical is admittedly flawed.)

Bush clearly brings quite a bit to the table — he’s the former chief executive of the nation’s largest swing state, where he remains quite popular. He’s perceived as serious about public policy, and cares about reaching out to Hispanic voters. What’s more, the 2012 field is likely to include plenty of GOP contenders, but none of them is impressive or striking fear into the hearts of Democrats.

That said, Lowry’s case wasn’t especially persuasive. He argues, for example, that by 2016, “Jeb will have been out of office ten years.” Do Republicans really care about this? Newt Gingrich hasn’t held a day job in 13 years, and he’s apparently not only running, but is being taken seriously. Jeb can’t keep busy until ’16?

Lowry added that the Bush name has been rehabilitated, and that Jeb is “different” from his father and brother — a fact, Lowry added, people will “realize” as soon as they “see him on the national stage.”

All told, I think it’s a tough sell. The unmitigated trainwreck of George W. Bush’s presidency hasn’t been forgotten that quickly — the stench of failure surrounding that name won’t fade too quickly — and while Jeb’s style is distinct from his brother’s, I suspect a fairly significant chunk of the population would respond to another Bush candidacy by asking, “Hasn’t that family done enough damage already?”

The last name “Bush” has been on the Republican ticket in 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004.* I question whether the public would welcome adding 2012 to the list.

* Postscript: Since 1952, there have been 15 Republican presidential tickets. How many of those 15 did not feature the name Nixon, Dole, or Bush? Just two: 1964 and 2008.