The Bushes Just Won’t Go Away
Jeb Bush announced that he will “actively explore” running for president:
The announcement by Mr. Bush does not say he has formed an exploratory committee, just that he will form a leadership PAC in January.
Members of the extended Bush family have been not very subtly dropping hints in public for months now that this was what he would do, so the announcement comes as no surprise. Bush’s decision is still a bit strange. The GOP is awash in plausible candidates, so there is no particular need to have ex-governors from a decade ago jumping into the contest. Yes, this is probably his last opportunity to run for president with any remotely realistic chance of becoming the nominee, but that window arguably already closed for him years ago. Depending on how strong residual anti-Bush sentiment is in the country, it may have closed as soon as his brother was re-elected. That isn’t his only problem. Bush hasn’t been a candidate in twelve years, and by the time the first votes are cast in the 2016 cycle he will have been out of office for nine years or so. It’s possible to imagine how a politician that long out of office might come back to win a party’s nomination, but it seems extremely unlikely. And unlike his brother in 2000, he won’t have the luxury of having the nomination practically handed to him by party leaders. He’ll have to compete for it against fresher, younger, more interesting political talent.
The first casualty of a Bush announcement would be Rubio’s presidential ambitions, at least for 2016. Bush has been a mentor to Rubio, who would not want to disrupt their alliance and friendship. In addition, Bush is 61 and the upcoming presidential election is likely to be his best, if not his last, chance at winning the White House. Rubio, however, is only 43, and has two or three good presidential opportunities ahead of him. Finally, Bush, who was a popular Florida governor, is substantially stronger in the state than Rubio.
That’s probably just as well for Rubio, since Florida law barred him from running for both offices at the same time anyway.
As Dougherty pointed out yesterday, nothing conveys a message of staleness and intellectual bankruptcy like yet another Bush dynasty revival. Certainly there would be no better way to announce that the GOP remains in thrall to the Bush era than to choose another Bush as standard-bearer. The problem with this isn’t just that it would reward dynasticism, but that it would be rewarding an especially incompetent dynasty. That’s why I assume that there will be enough Republican voters that won’t go along with a Bush revival. For one thing, they don’t have to, and for another Bush isn’t likely to be the best or most compelling candidate in the 2016 field.