What the Jeb Bush surge tells us about the state of the 2016 presidential race.
In case you missed it, the Bush Dynasty is back in the news with one time favorite son Jeb being urged to run for president in 2016. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa had a nice run down in The Washington Post that summarized the efforts of a number of influential Republican donors and other power brokers to draft Jeb for the 2016 presidential race.
The wisdom of turning back to the Bush clan after the debacle of the 43rd president aside, the emergence of a “Draft Bush” bandwagon (or whatever you want to call it) helps to explain a variety of political dynamics going on right now.
First of all, this is a great example of how the “invisible primary” in the nominations process is very much happening as you read this. That is, party actors inside both the Democratic and Republican parties are, as we speak, evaluating candidates for the presidential nomination and choosing sides. This is especially true when it comes to powerful party elites like major fundraisers or campaign professionals. So while the media likes to cover presidential nominations based on who won this or that primary, in reality the “winner” so to speak can be chosen long before. A strong argument can be made for example that Bush had “won” the 2000 nominations contest as early as 1998 or 1999 after most Republican governors decided to support him either publicly or behind the scenes.
During the “invisible primary” party elites are basically looking for two things. They want a politician with the political skills necessary to compete on the level of presidential politics and they want someone who they think they can count on to stay loyal to basic party policy preferences. Politicians who can’t pass one or both of these tests can still compete in the process and appear on primary ballots, but if party actors don’t like them they will never get beyond the novelty status of a Herman Cain in 2012 or an Al Sharpton in 2004.
Second, the whole Jeb Bush boomlet is pretty strong evidence that Chris Christie was seriously damaged by “bridgegate.” It probably hasn’t taken him completely out of the running, but it seems like a lot of Republican party elites see the scandal as a serious problem for Christie, in fact, as Rucker and Costa point out, some of the most powerful of the new Jeb backers are people formerly aligned with the Christie camp.
Jeb Bush is not without his own problems. He’s been out of office for over seven years as of right now, which is pretty atypical for major party nominees, but if he ultimately is interested in the White House and not just toying with the idea, he’s got a good chance for the nomination.
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