With his announcement of plans to “actively explore” running for president, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is now — in the minds of many Republican donors and other party leaders — an early front-runner for the GOP’s next presidential nomination.
1. The Bush Name
As the brother and son of former Republican presidents, Bush’s family connections make him the ultimate safe bet for the GOP’s biggest donors, who above all want to reclaim the White House. He will inherit the Bushes’ national political network, which includes elected officials and activists nationwide, and deep-pocketed donors in New York, Florida and Texas.
2. Hispanic Voters
Bush is a fluent Spanish speaker, is married to a native of Mexico and is the former governor of a state where nearly a quarter of residents identify as Hispanic or Latino. He has continued to support a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally in the face of fervent opposition among conservatives. Like few other Republicans, Bush has the potential to win over a growing group of voters who have voted solidly for Democrats in the past several elections.
3. Florida Experience
In his two campaigns for governor, Bush won at least 55 percent of the vote in what remains the most crucial of presidential swing states. He established a long record as an executive during his time in office, from 1999 to 2007, and in the years since has grown a private equity business. That’s a record he can contrast against many potential White House rivals, whose shorter resumes are focused on serving in an unpopular Congress.
4. Ideas Guy
Bush is viewed as a policy wonk with expertise in some of the nation’s most pressing issues. He led a nonprofit education organization, where he made innovation a priority. Bush could paint himself as an ideas man in a party eager to coalesce around a positive agenda.
Many political operatives suggest Bush gives the GOP the best chance of securing the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. He gives Republicans a good chance to win his home state of Florida, as well as Ohio, which his brother won twice. He’s also poised to do well in states with large Latino populations, such as Colorado and Nevada. As a candidate considered less conservative than some White House prospects, he could help the GOP in swing states such as Wisconsin, Virginia, Iowa and New Hampshire.
1. The Bush Name
This one cuts both ways. Bush’s family connections could turn off conservatives who are still upset about the government growth that took place during George W. Bush’s presidency. Some Republicans are already rolling their eyes about another Bush-Clinton contest, should Democrats select Hillary Rodham Clinton as their nominee.
2. Campaign Rust
Bush hasn’t been a candidate for any office since 2002, when he won his second term as Florida’s governor. That was years before the tea party transformed Republican politics. Twitter didn’t exist, nor did the video trackers who now record a candidate’s every move. Bush is certainly familiar with the pressure of presidential politics, but it’s unclear how he would handle the intensity of a modern-day campaign.
Bush has made immigration, including providing a pathway to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally, one of his signature issues. There is perhaps no more explosive issue among conservatives than what they call “amnesty,” and Bush is showing few signs of backing off on a position viewed as a deal breaker by many conservatives.
4. Common Core
Bush has been an aggressive proponent of the Common Core education standards often demonized by conservative activists. The voluntary standards were developed and adopted by governors in both parties before critics painted them as a government takeover of education. Most ambitious Republicans have come out against the standards in recent months, while Bush has stood firm in defense of them.
5. Business Ties
A former commercial real estate developer, Bush missed out on the housing boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He’s tried to make up for it since leaving office. Bush advised Lehman Brothers shortly before its epic collapse and more recently ramped up his work as a partner in a Florida-based private equity and business advisory group. Opposition researchers in both parties are already sifting through records of Bush’s business interests, looking for attack fodder.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.