In a TV interview, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he was interested in running for president in 2016, but added, “I won’t declare today either.”
The circumstances facing the GOP in 2016 are somewhat similar to what they were in 2000 when George W. Bush became the party standard-bearer. Therefore, there is definitely going to be interest in seeing Bush the Third play out.
By 2015, when candidates begin declaring, Republicans will have been out of the White House for nearly eight years and the desire to nominate anybody who can win (read: “electable”) will be stronger than it was in 2008 or 2012.
There is also no clear “runner-up” or next-in-line. There is no Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney. Paul Ryan has been so silent since November that I almost have to wonder if he’s still in Congress.
Yet, the presence of a big name like Jeb, even if the Bush name is otherwise toxic, could be a primary-clearing event.
The obvious mark against Jeb is that he is a Bush. However, we also don’t know what the mood of the country will be in 2015 after seven years of Democratic rule. If it’s anything like the seventh year of most two-term administrations, there will be fatigue of the incumbent party. If so, “Bush bashing” by the Democrats may fall on deaf ears.
There is also a lot of speculation that U.S. Senator Marco Rubio will be running for the White House in 2016. This is where things get interesting.
Jeb and Rubio were allies in Florida politics, so it would be surprising to see them credibly attack one another. As both represent many of the same goals and constituencies, they would almost assuredly cancel each other out in the primaries. They also have many of the same backers (Bill Kristol, Jennifer Rubin), so there is going to be a lot of interest to get them involved in the race.
These politicos are desirous because they can talk like conservatives, but are essentially conventional Republican politicians. Although Rubio is considered a conservative of some type, his agitation for the GOP version of “American Exceptionalism” and immigration reform qualifies him as a status quo politician.
Still, Rubio is ambitious and Jeb is a blue blood with two ex-presidents in the family, so I have a hard time seeing either one of them acting as a stalking horse for the other. If one of them does something, it’s to win it.
However, for the sake of chaos, I would enjoy seeing both Jeb and Rubio run in 2016 because it would actually open up the chance for a dark horse — perhaps reformist — candidate to win the nomination.
One of the problems conservatives have had in recent presidential primaries is that they have not been able to unite around a single candidate. There was no significant establishment alternative to Romney in 2011-12, so he simply had to keep the candidates vying for the conservative vote fighting each other.
The GOP establishment is usually better organized than the conservative base, so it’s not likely there will be two “establishment” preferences. There will, however, likely be plenty of fighting over the conservative mantle.
Author’s prediction: Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio will run in 2016. Not both.