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Why Jeb Bush Isn’t Going To Be the Next Republican Nominee

Damon Linker despairs [1]:

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.

48 Comments (Open | Close)

48 Comments To "Why Jeb Bush Isn’t Going To Be the Next Republican Nominee"

#1 Comment By carl lundgren On February 5, 2014 @ 11:27 am

Interesting-One second generation political hack versus a third generation political hack. One shopworn, one with little to offer but a tarnished name. This is how Jesse Ventura got elected governor is Minnesota.

#2 Comment By Derek Leaberry On February 5, 2014 @ 11:34 am

Although everything Mr. Larison writes is correct, you can never underestimate the stupidity of the Republican Party and its base voter. After all, it is the party stupid enough to divide its own base over immigration in an election season where the headwinds are favorable for a mini-landslide. Never count the Republicans out!

#3 Comment By Sheldon On February 5, 2014 @ 12:00 pm

Bill Kristol also touted Jeb Bush the other day, which I suppose is another reason to consider Bush unlikely. But the question remains, who else have the Republicans got?

#4 Comment By WorkingClass On February 5, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

I have to agree with Mr. Linker. And I hate it for the same reasons he does. The only thing I would add is this. The Oligarchy can’t lose a contest between a Bush and a Clinton. Either way they win. Tea Party candidates will be weeded out by the corporate media in the primaries. If anyone is foolish enough to challenge Hillary they will be crushed like a bug for the same reasons.

Christie was doing and saying all the right things to be the establishment candidate. Then he blew up. Jeb, meanwhile, has been keeping his powder dry.

By the way. If it’s Bush vs. Clinton we will have to relive the 2000 election fiasco in Florida. I doubt it will help the Democrats but they will have to try.

Can Jeb actually prevail in the general election? Who cares?

#5 Comment By rebecca On February 5, 2014 @ 12:12 pm

As a former long-time resident of Florida, during the time Jeb was governor, I can say that while certain constituencies loved him (business, strong social conservatives), many of us in the capitol of Tallahassee loathed him. He was well known for firing (or wanting to fire) nearly all of the state workers, who were (and still are) some of the most underpaid governmental workers in the U.S. In place of the workers, he hired vastly more expensive private contractors, yet in his brochures and other literature, bragged about saving the state millions of dollars. What a phony.

#6 Comment By Michael N Moore On February 5, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

I noticed some time ago in the sordid world of Northeast politics that voters break for the candidate that appears the least tainted and carries the least weight of opportunism.

Since the Republicans have adopted the Northeast style of ruthless and opportunist politics, Rand Paul will look like the only antidote to a hated system. Just keep looking a little goofy and he is in.

#7 Comment By Douglas V. On February 5, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

I can safely say that Jeb Bush will not be the GOP nominee in 2016.

#8 Comment By WorkingClass On February 5, 2014 @ 12:19 pm

@carl lundgren:

I totally agree. There is an opening for a two fisted populist in 2016. I hope one shows up.

#9 Comment By EngineerScotty On February 5, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

This time in 1990, who outside the state of Arkansas had ever heard of William Jefferson Clinton? HW was still popular, still basking in the glow of the Reagan years, and Gulf War I was a few months from starting. While the 24-hour news cycle was not yet upon us, Bill Clinton probably was on few lists to be the Democratic nominee.

That’s the question: Any interesting GOP governors out there who AREN’T presently being feted for a run, and who may lack the manifest and obvious flaws of the current crowd (even if they lack a current national constituency and fundraising base)?

#10 Comment By collin On February 5, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

Liberal websites are laughing at the most “electable conservative” for 2016 since Christie hit his roadblock. Right now there is Scott Walker (The Pawlenty of 2016), Paul Ryan (the Romney of 2016 so the best candidate), and Jeb Bush (???). Anyway, I always assumed the Tea Party will let loose in 2016 and gets Ted Cruz nominated as he certainly has the best potential as a pure politician.

I don’t think Jeb has any chance as I have not seen an interview with him where I don’t think he is going to start crying in front of the camera. Jeb reached his level of competence as a Governor.

#11 Comment By WillW On February 5, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

Ok, just a thought perhaps both parties might want to think about having at least one serious candidate who isn’t old enough to be drawing Social Security in 2016?

#12 Comment By William Burns On February 5, 2014 @ 12:52 pm

Engineer Scotty,

Actually, quite a few people outside of Arkansas had heard of Bill Clinton in 1990. He was a national joke after his prolonged nominating speech for Michael Dukakis in 1988. That’s probably an even worse position to start a Presidential race than being unknown.

#13 Comment By Richard Wagner On February 5, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

@Workingclass I must say you raise a frightening prospect – another “Bush v. Clinton” race. And this time there is unlikely to be a Ross Perot alternative, or even a Nader for that matter. Fortunately, I think this article is correct. Jeb Bush is very unlikely to be nominated by the GOP. The Republicans would like to win for a change, and their getting desperate. The last time the Republicans got desperate, and the Democrats got too comfortable, we had 8 years of Reagan. Let’s hope history rhymes!

#14 Comment By steve in ohio On February 5, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

Unless Christie can bounce back, I think Jeb wins the nomination. The establishment always wins. The Tea Party, the libertarian populists and other outsiders will be unable (and perhaps unwilling) to unite on behalf of one candidate. The hawks will go with Cruz and the non interventionists and realists will go with Rand Paul. Immigration restrictionists, as usual, will have a winning issue but no candidate to make the case.

#15 Comment By C. L. H. Daniels On February 5, 2014 @ 2:24 pm

The results in 2012 were tainted by the fact that other than Romney and Pawlenty (who never got any real traction), every other candidate had major flaws. Romney was the least objectionable, which is certainly one reason why he won, probably the most important one at that. From what I can see, the options in 2016 will be far more palatable, offering Republicans a real choice. Say what you will about Bush, he’s got fewer flaws as a candidate than Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, etc. had. Same with virtually all of the other potential 2016 candidates. Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul are serious candidates. Some of them have liabilities, sure, but they’re far less laughable than the likes of Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann, whom voters outside the Republican base were unlikely to ever take seriously.

The 2016 Republican primary is shaping up to be a serious contest, one that will also be a proxy battle between various parts of the coalition in a far more useful way than the 2012 contest was.

#16 Comment By Just Dropping By On February 5, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

@ EngineerScotty: I agree that Bill Clinton wasn’t particularly well known at this point in the election cycle. However, there’s a good argument to be made that the presidential election process has changed enough over the last 20+ years that it’s no longer possible to start that far “behind.” Campaigns have become much more expensive and the pool of campaign managers capable of handling them has become correspondingly smaller. If someone wants to run successfully for president in 2016, they need to start laying the groundwork very soon.

#17 Comment By c matt On February 5, 2014 @ 3:06 pm

The GOP has a special talent of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, so I wouldn’t rule anything out, except perhaps the GOP picking the most likely candidate to win in a general election.

#18 Comment By Clint On February 5, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

Jeb Bush was a signatory of the neoconservative, The Project for the New American Century “Statement of Principles”.

#19 Comment By simon94022 On February 5, 2014 @ 3:19 pm

I hope Mr. Larison is right. But if he does decide to run, Jeb Bush would have huge advantages in both money and name ID. Those are usually winners in the GOP primary process, where voters consistently favor the candidate who is established, solid and well-connected.

Most Republican voters don’t go for the Herman Cain/Michelle Bachman type firebrands, and they aren’t really comfortable with voting for someone they have never heard of before.

#20 Comment By simon94022 On February 5, 2014 @ 3:21 pm

I don’t think Christie’s problems have much impact on this one way or another, unless they cause Jeb to give more serious consideration to running.

Christie was never likely to play well outside the northeast, so he was never going to be the 2016 GOP nominee. That seems to be an assumption made by the same sort of Democrats who were certain that Huntsman would be a major contender in 2012.

#21 Comment By Myron Hudson On February 5, 2014 @ 3:39 pm

I’d like to agree with Daniel on this one but Jeb will most likely be backed by the neocons and their sources of funding. As thoroughly discredited as they should be, they still have a formidable presence and voice. The machine is still working.

Unless something happens between now and then to relegate them to the dustbin they should be in already, there would not be much difference between Jeb and Hillary, just as there would not have been between McCain and Hillary. This could prove to be the most abysmal menu ever.

#22 Comment By TomB On February 5, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

Larison is missing something huge when he notes that Bush is essentially a cipher on 90% of the issues: Just like with his moron brother that’s a *strength.* And that’s why he has no need to be saying anything now to get attention and to box him into anything.

That is, he can sit back and rest on his name recognition knowing it will vault him into instant credibility (and money) the second he announces, and in the meantime remain mute and allow the other contenders to chew each other down to looking like midgets, knowing that after this is done he can then come waltzing in with hollow but high-minded things about whatever and look lofty and serious.

Jeb *is* running already, don’t you see? You can tell by his silence.

In the absence of appearance of another Second Coming of another miracle persona like Obama, it will be Jeb versus Hillary.

And that shows just how much suffering God feels we deserve.

#23 Comment By HyperIon On February 5, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

I agree with Derek Leaberry.

Larison is making an argument based on facts and rationality. That’s not how the “modern” GOP makes its decisions. Recall Sarah Palin?

#24 Comment By Michael Sheridan On February 5, 2014 @ 5:29 pm

As long as we’re just guessing, my two guesses as to who will be the Republican Presidential candidate would be Tom Coburn or Jim DeMint. I wouldn’t vote for either one and don’t think either one could win, but I honestly can’t think of anyone the GOP could field who could do better.

#25 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 5, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

I will have to hear what he has to say and why before drawing any conclusions.

#26 Comment By EliteCommInc. On February 5, 2014 @ 5:45 pm

“And that shows just how much suffering God feels we deserve.”


#27 Comment By Clint On February 5, 2014 @ 5:53 pm

As the election campaigns move forward, facts and feelings about such issues as Hillary Clinton’s age,Hillarycare, Benghazi,her Iraq vote,or her response to her husband’s escapades may whittle away at her electability and work in opponents’ favor.

#28 Comment By SDS On February 5, 2014 @ 5:58 pm

….And that shows just how much suffering God feels we deserve…..


#29 Comment By Warren Bajan On February 5, 2014 @ 6:25 pm

Given a crop of aspirants in 2016 like Bachman, Cain, Santorum and Gingrich, a well funded Bush could be the last man standing like Mr. 47 percent in 2012.
Bush has as good a chance to get the nomination in his party as Clinton does in hers, but remember, she was deemed the inevitable winner when the primary campaign started in 2008.

#30 Comment By j. r. mc..Faul On February 5, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

Nobody whose last name is Bush can ever be elected President of the United States. The GOP knows this. He won’t be nominated.

#31 Comment By CaseyL On February 5, 2014 @ 6:45 pm

“…Hillary Clinton’s age,Hillarycare, Benghazi,her Iraq vote,or her response to her husband’s escapades may whittle away at her electability and work in opponents’ favor.”

You have spoken a great yet simple truth. Especially that part about Bill’s escapades – nothing will better convince Americans to vote for the Republican Presidential candidate than talking about Bill Clinton’s womanizing!

Do this. Really.

#32 Comment By Darryl Schmitz On February 5, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

Over three hundred million people, and we have to keep going back to the Clinton or Bush wells time after time? Pretty obvious the two political parties are calling all the shots, not us.

#33 Comment By Dave On February 5, 2014 @ 8:52 pm

I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think some people here are either overestimating or underestimating the power of name recognition. I can say with a certainty that I will not vote for someone with the last name Bush in 2016 or likely ever. I have a feeling a lot of younger people such as myself are in agreement on this.

#34 Comment By Gene On February 5, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

It’s interesting that the neocons like Jeb considering how much they despised his father.

#35 Comment By Puller58 On February 5, 2014 @ 10:06 pm

The truth is that Jeb Bush represents the “smart” Bush brother. (In the pundit driven world that is.) Now that means he doesn’t engage in malaprops and doesn’t sound like he cut classes and flaked out in school. There are those in the GOP electorate that likely feel better about George W. Bush since their hatred of Barack Obama colors their thinking of the former President. (And as others have pointed out, they still think Bush wasn’t as bad as the Democrats have said.) Can he prevail as the GOP nominee? Perhaps not, but the opposition isn’t that impressive so there’s a chance.

#36 Comment By Promenade On February 5, 2014 @ 11:06 pm

I suspect we’ve lost our collective national appetite for Bushes and Clintons. With all due respect to the elder Bush (and that’s plenty), his sons have been a severe disappointment. And the aroma wafting from the Clinton camp never changes: mystery money, foreign entanglements, revolving doors, wars and rumors of wars, and lots of old pals hanging around salivating.

#37 Comment By MikeCA On February 5, 2014 @ 11:24 pm

CaseyL, if anything Bill’s womanizing would probably win Hillary more than a little support from women. I don’t dislike her but I’m not overly enthused either. As usual for many voters it will be who will do the least harm and perhaps marginally improve our current state of affairs. Most of the GOP/Tea Party crowd are unacceptable to a broad swath of the electorate for myriad reasons but we’re still over 2 yrs out at this point. Anything can and might happen.

#38 Comment By Cliff On February 5, 2014 @ 11:40 pm

You know what this reminds me of?


I don’t know who Damon Linker is but I can just see him with that smile on his face, saying that one word, “Bush”. And other people, in the same role, with different words: “Christie” or “Paul” or “Rubin”. Or “Hilary”. But at the end of the movie, we’re in the back of the bus, afraid to look at one another, thinking, “My God, what have we done?”

#39 Comment By bayesian On February 6, 2014 @ 3:53 am

Engineer Scotty
Brian Sandoval, perhaps? No scandals that I know of (that’s a fair accomplishment for a recent Nevada Republican, it seems), and if the GOP actually wants to try to play identity politics with Latinos (rather than with whites :), he’s at least actually of Mexican background, rather than Cuban.

ISTR that he stood up to Norquistmail by refusing to categorically rule out tax increases, though AFAIK he actually hasn’t raised any as GOPers score such things. Also made some runs against public employee unions, but in a quiet way – more Mitch Daniels than Walker or Christie. That lack of raw red meat won’t endear him to the base, but it might come in handy in the general.

#40 Comment By David Davis On February 6, 2014 @ 9:47 am

Lord, I hope your right. However the gun the Republican leadership shoots itself in the foot with never seems to run out of ammunition. We will have to wait and see.

#41 Comment By Barry On February 6, 2014 @ 10:39 am

C. L. H. Daniels says:
February 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

“The results in 2012 were tainted by the fact that other than Romney and Pawlenty (who never got any real traction), every other candidate had major flaws. Romney was the least objectionable, which is certainly one reason why he won, probably the most important one at that. ”

People who dis on Romney as not being very electable should remember that he did *better* overall than the Tea Party’s candidates for Senate.

#42 Comment By Floridan On February 6, 2014 @ 11:27 am

I think the major factor in discounting a Jeb Bush candidacy is that he does not display the “fire in the belly” desire to be president. Is Bush really willing to go through the meat grinder that is required of presidential candidates — those who succeed tend to be, if not happy warriors, at least warriors.

In that way, he reminds me of Jon Huntsman in 2012.

#43 Comment By cka2nd On February 6, 2014 @ 4:44 pm

EngineerScotty says: “This time in 1990, who outside the state of Arkansas had ever heard of William Jefferson Clinton?”

Well, anyone who had been put to sleep by his opening night address to the 1988 Democratic Convention, or had seen that performance lampooned on TV or in the papers. Jimmy Carter is a better example of a truly obscure politician coming out of the woodwork on the national level.

#44 Comment By cka2nd On February 6, 2014 @ 5:00 pm

Interesting poll on the relative popularity of those governors up for re-election this year. Could the list include a 2016 GOP presidential dark horse?


#45 Comment By Greg On February 6, 2014 @ 5:16 pm

Jeb Bush doesn’t seem to want the job–he’s been very, very quiet (no book, not very many speeches/press appearances.) Granted, it’s early 2014, and candidates won’t officially start running until 2015, but still.

Scott Walker has the support of the Koch brothers *and* of conservative activists, which makes him formidable. Paul Ryan is also top-tier. Sandoval would be if he chooses to run. Susanna Martinez (NM Gov) would be another contender. Rubio and Jindal are damaged, but not out of the game (yet).

#46 Comment By a spencer On February 6, 2014 @ 6:36 pm


I don’t know that Ryan or Walker could take Wisconsin, depending on the Democrat.

I don’t know anything about Sandoval. I keep waiting for buzz around Martinez.

If Bush were to enter the race, what happens to Rubio? You’re right, both State of the Union responses Rubio and Jindal gave were met with widespread derision. We’ll see those clips over and over.

#47 Comment By chazz andrews On April 30, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

If Jeb is nominated, conservatives (to quote Yogi Berra) will stay home in droves just like ’08 and’12. We’re tired of the Karl Roves pulling strings and getting their man nominated and then being told to hold our collective noses and vote for him. Let Karl & company hold THEIR noses this time. Either that or it’s time for a 3rd Party.

#48 Comment By Jasperinboston On December 16, 2014 @ 11:20 am

I think it’s very difficult to predict how Bush’s candidacy will be received. It’s possible he won’t get out of the gate (or stumble badly in the early going, or fail to pick up any momentum). But I think it’s possible he’ll do well. Lack of foreign policy expertise? That didn’t stop Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama from being nominated. Same thing with lack of new ideas. What new ideas did John McCain and Mitt Romney bring to the primaries?

Jeb Bush will have higher name recognition than any other GOP contender and he’ll likely be able to out fund-raise any other GOP contender. These items hardly guarantee him the nomination, but they surely mark him as having a very strong shot at winning it.