For being the presumed front-runner of the Republican field, Jeb Bush's failure to launch a consistent message to the media has many taking notice -- inside and outside of the party's faithful.
One media guffaw could be excusable, but Bush is creating a consistent pattern of evading, poorly answering, and/or ignoring the media's questions -- a pattern that simply cannot be blamed on "gotcha" politics.
Bush seems to have the disease of "moderate-itis," and it seems to be a terminal case -- if not addressed quickly.
Is Bush Really a Moderate?
On one hand Bush gets attacked by the liberal press for being a conservative who is faking the moderate routine.On the other, the
conservative press is afraid of allowing a potential darling being cast in too moderate of a light and are focused on trying to beef up his conservative credentials.
Neither side wants him in the "moderate" role, but for very different reasons.
Many liberals don't want a moderate candidate facing their newly embraced populist strategy, while conservatives believe that a moderate is unlikely to clear the primary season -- especially with the large field.
Endless bickering would not produce a real answer as to Bush's moderate or conservative credentials; his record has been a mixed bag of politics that is much less clear than Mitt Romney's moderate tenure in Massachusetts politics.
The Republicans are having to address the realities of 2012, and it's unclear as to whether they are actually learning the lessons from their defeat.
Mitt Romney was heralded as a moderate Republican, the only way to beat incumbent-President Barrack Obama's "leftist" agenda. This was an understandable strategy.
What wasn't understandable was nominating a truly moderate candidate in 2012, and then trying to boost his conservative credentials.
So in the rundown of defeat: do the Republicans see the defeat as being caused by putting up a moderate candidate, or do they see this defeat as being one of trying to present the moderate candidate in the most conservative light possible?
The unfortunate reality is that it seems like the party is split on its interpretation, only adding fuel to the burning fires of "moderate-itis" among the lesser conservative candidates.
No Help in the 2016 Primary Calendar for Moderates
The 2012 primary calendar encouraged a "fake left, move right" type strategy, with several huge swing state prizes up for grabs in the first weeks of the primary season (including Florida's early primary on Jan. 31).
The 2016 primary calendar is much different, as it stands today, with the Republicans having to face some of the most conservative battles first.
Most political campaigns are seen as unviable if they can't win at least something during the opening days of the primary season, and come from behind primary victories are especially difficult, if not impossible, to orchestrate.
A primary decided by early less-than-majority pluralities could be inevitable if the Republican field doesn't start trimming down soon, which could have wild unpredictable results, as pluralities are almost impossible to predict.
The Cure for "Moderate-itis"
The media in general is having a heyday with the Republican field, with what would otherwise be considered poor journalism. It seems that the current media strategy is to ask all of the contenders the same set of questions, and then see what kind of political explosion happens by the party faithful's reaction.In short, the media -- both left and right-- seems to be arranging political train wrecks for the candidates to fall into, all while waiting with an open mic and rolling camera to film the ensuing carnage.
Bush is trying to navigate these waters, while not damaging either his moderate appeal or his conservative credentials, which is in reality causing the very root of his problems.
He's either a moderate or he's not; he's either a conservative or he's not. Either way, he's going to alienate part of the party and/or the swing voters in the general election.
The only cure for "moderate-itis" is picking what kind of candidate he will be -- and then sticking to it regardless of the fallout.
The fact that the Republican Party seems split on the causation of the 2012 defeat is going to make this fallout problematic at best, politically lethal at worst.