Damon Linker despairs:
Because it’s beginning to dawn on me that Jeb Bush is probably going to be the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2016.
I suppose anything’s possible, but I can’t quite see it. Linker’s argument depends on emphasizing the weaknesses of other candidates, but even if he is right about everyone else that doesn’t translate into much of an advantage for Bush. He will have been out of office for over a decade by the time the voting starts. Despite having been out of government for all that time, he doesn’t seem likely to offer any new ideas. The two issues that have interested him most (education, immigration) don’t really work to his advantage in the primaries, and on immigration his position will provoke more resistance than support. Like his brother when he ran for president, Jeb Bush has no foreign policy experience to speak of, and to the best of my knowledge he has never shown much interest in the subject. Given his brother’s disastrous record, I doubt that enough Republicans would want to take that kind of chance again.
Considering the state that the last Bush left the GOP in, there can’t be very many Republicans that want to turn to that family a third time for leadership. The old saw that Republicans haven’t won a presidential election in decades without a Bush on the ticket distracts people from the fact that two of the last three times they put a Bush at the top of their ticket they lost the popular vote. George W. Bush’s re-election margin was one of the narrowest in modern history. So the assumption that nominating Bush is the best way to put an end to the party’s losing streak in presidential elections isn’t very well-founded, but that is what Republicans would have to believe to force themselves to do that.
There’s no doubt that Bush could raise a lot of money, but other than that what is the argument for his presidential campaign? He hasn’t disavowed anything his brother did in office, and as far as we know he doesn’t disagree with his brother on any major issues. He is more likely to defend his brother against critics. That may be understandable as a matter of family loyalty, but it isn’t going to win him many supporters. It would be exceptionally easy for the Democrats to argue that Jeb Bush wants to return to the policies of his brother, and those policies–and their failures–are one of many reasons why the post-2008 Republican Party remains so unpopular and distrusted by the public. The last thing that Republicans need is to contest another election in Bush’s shadow, and nominating Bush’s brother is a sure way to do that. The limited positive case for Bush is that he was a reasonably successful and popular governor in Florida, and his tenure was not marked by the incompetence that plagued the administration. I can see the slogan now: “Vote for Jeb Bush–he’s not as incompetent as his brother!” Somehow I doubt that will be good enough.