Jeb’s Political Purgatory

If you are not already tired of reading about Jeb Bush, I strongly encourage you to peruse Jennifer Senior’s profile of the Scion at New York magazine. You come away impressed at his intelligence; a bit fearful of his ruthlessness (unlike his brother, Jeb hasn’t inspired many testimonials from Democrats about how much they liked working with him); and a bit flummoxed by the many pros and cons of his presidential campaign.

Senior writes a good bit about the March 15, 2015 Florida winner-take-all primary that could be the climactic battle between Bush and Marco Rubio (some Florida political observers, she notes, are already referring to the event as “Jebio”). On the one hand, Rubio has run in Florida more recently, and has residual support from a Tea Party movement that didn’t exist when Jeb was in charge of the Florida Republican Party. On the other hand, most of Rubio’s key supporters were Jeb supporters first, and it’s even possible Bush could have stronger overall Hispanic support than the Cuban-American Rubio (Jeb’s appeal is more pan-Hispanic in a state where Cubans are regularly declining as a share of the Hispanic vote).

But while Rubio’s star seems to be steadily on the rise in the states that will precede Florida in the primary calendar, Bush is really struggling in every arena other than fundraising. Senior comes up with a really good line about Jeb’s original electability pitch:

In December, the governor said that a successful GOP presidential candidate must be ready to “lose the primary to win the general.” It’s a deliberate paradox, niftily capturing the conundrum that most American candidates face when running for higher office: You can’t spend too much time appealing to the radicals in your own party during primary season. We are now watching Jeb live out this strategy in real time. The trouble is this strategy only works if you metaphorically lose, not if you actually do.

Yeah, Jeb better win in New Hampshire.

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.