Early Jebbie-Mania

The big political buzz over the weekend–reinforced by the related story of the “Sheldon Primary” going on in Las Vegas–involved reports that an effort to “draft” (a technical term meaning “provide the requisite money commitments”) Jeb Bush for a 2016 presidential campaign was gaining real momentum among the Republican donor class. According to WaPo’s Philip Rucker and Robert Costa, there are signs Bush might be coming around after an alleged lack of interest in following his father and brother into the White House. Apparently no one even remotely comes close to Bush as the favorite of former Romney donors. Despite all sorts of awkwardness on the immigration issue, he’s presumed to have unique appeal among Hispanics as a Spanish-speaker married to a Mexican-American, and a big general election advantage in Florida.

There are three obvious problems with a Jebbie candidacy, aside from the ambitions of other candidates who have been in the limelight a bit more often recently: (1) voters don’t much like the idea of another Bush presidency, (2) conservatives feel twice-betrayed by the RINO tendencies of the Bush family, and (3) Jeb is the most prominent and adamant GOP supporter of the Common Core Standards education initiative, which is wildly unpopular among GOP rank-and-file conservatives.

I think about the most you can say now is that if Bush does decide to run he could be in the same position as Mitt Romney was four years ago going into the cycle: a putative front-runner with no money problems but with some known handicaps to overcome. There’s not a whole lot he can do about the fact that his family name has been on the national ballot in six of the last nine presidential contests. Having once been viewed as the Bush family’s one authentic “movement conservative,” it’s ironic he’ll have to prove his ideological bona fides all over again, but the GOP is palpably more conservative than it was when Jeb left office in 2006.

A Bush candidacy would be very bad news for Chris Christie, who might then become eminently disposable, and for Marco Rubio, whose own limited base would be decisively undercut by his mentor. But the 2016 nominee? It’s hard to see that happening, but then I thought the same thing about Mitt Romney.

Let’s see how much excitement Bush can create beyond the cocktail chatter of donors.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.