Jeb Bush outlines a curious political strategy:
Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida was blunt Monday night: If he runs for president in 2016, he will not pander to his party’s conservative base in the primaries.
Mr. Bush said at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council in Washington that Republican candidates must be willing to “lose the primary to win the general [bold mine-DL], without violating your principles.”
This suggests that Bush has forgotten something that his brother learned during his first campaign. When George W. Bush started his campaign, he initially ran against the Congressional GOP and presented himself as a relative moderate, the so-called “reformer with results.” Many Republicans thought this to be a clever imitation of Clinton’s “New Democrat” pitch at the time, but once Bush faced some semi-serious competition from McCain he quickly figured out that he needed to rally conservative voters. So Bush set out to make conservatives believe that he was one of them. Thanks in no small part to McCain and conservative voters’ dislike for him, Bush was successful in this, and unfortunately for all of us many conservatives’ identification with Bush persisted for a long time. To some extent, his father had done the same thing in 1988 by presenting himself as Reagan’s heir. Bushes can certainly win the Republican nomination, but they have to do it by getting primary voters to forget that they are Bushes.
Now Jeb Bush is describing a campaign that would mimic the early part of his brother’s first run without any attempt to replicate the later, more successful part. The problem with this isn’t that a relative moderate can’t win the Republican nomination. In fact, it is rarely the case that the relative moderate hasn’t won. Jeb Bush’s mistake here is in thinking that a candidate can run what the article calls “an unapologetically pragmatic bid” and still prevail. Most conservative voters are used to being taken for granted during the general election, and they’re usually willing to play along provided that they think that the nominee shares their priorities. However, the would-be nominee has to convince them first that he is mostly on their side on major issues. If Jeb Bush thinks there are a lot of Republican voters hungering for bland “centrism” with a dynastic name attached to it, he is in for an unpleasant surprise.