Jeb’s Unlikely Tack for 2016

Considerable attention was paid to a straw poll of attendees at the Wall Street Journal’s “CEO council” indicating nearly three-fourths of them really like the idea of a third Bush presidency featuring the former Governor of Florida. But what I found interesting is what their preferred candidate told them:

“I don’t know if I would be a good candidate or a bad one, but I kinda know how a Republican could win, whether it’s me or somebody else, and it has to be much more uplifting, much more positive,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush suggested that the Republican nominee needs to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

For Mr. Bush, that would mean standing by the Common Core standards and his support for legalizing undocumented workers despite opposition from conservative quarters.

It’s sounding increasingly like Jeb has gone to school on Bill Clinton’s heavily electability-based 1992 rationale for a presidential candidacy. You half-expect him to say America is demanding a “different kind of Republican.”

But are the GOP rank-and-file ready to hear this message, fresh from a midterm victory that conservative opinion-leaders are largely treating as “the American people” repudiating liberalism forever? Are they ready to sacrifice their hatred for Common Core and “amnesty” in order (as Bush said in another part of his pithy remarks) to “show that we can, in an adult-like way, we can govern, lead”?

I really just don’t think so.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.