If a man named Jeb Smith was running for the GOP nomination, had been the Florida Governor for two terms with the exact same record as the man we know as Jeb Bush, had the exact same immigration policy prescriptions as the man we know as Jeb Bush, and had the support of the same people the man we know as Jeb Bush, I would be interested in monitoring the primary campaign of this Jeb Smith. The man we know as Jeb Bush is a conservative, who governed to the right of former California Governor, Ronald Reagan, and who has policy prescriptions in the areas of school choice and immigration that I frankly adore. He is extremely intelligent, articulate, and abundantly qualified to serve as this nation’s leader. Jeb Bush has voiced some things about common core that are either in desperate need of clarification or outright walk-back, but as far as “conservative credentials,” there is nothing remotely concerning to me about the idea of him being our President. I have sat quietly for 120 days giving the vocal side of the Jeb opposition to make a substantive case against him. I have heard nothing but platitudes, empty rhetoric, and mostly incoherent venom. This is the state of much of the conservative right these days. And alas, no matter how much it pains me, I have to join them in opposing the nomination of Jeb Bush, NOT because of common core (I think he clarifies this to a point of reasonable understanding at some point, or at least I hope he does), and NOT because of immigration policy (where his views are simply grown-up, realistic, wise, and frankly, inevitable). Rather, I join the Jeb-haters (not in hating Jeb but in not supporting his nomination) because I believe he will lose to Hillary Clinton, and unlike the 2012 state of nominees, I think we have better candidates available.
If Jeb wins the nomination, a not-at-all unlikely but certainly not guaranteed prospect, I will have no choice but to pray I am wrong. That is because I love this country, and part of loving this country means wanting the side which more represents the values and ideals of this country to win. Today’s obstructionist belligerents on the right are happy to lose, and I oppose their defeatism and insane ideology. Hillary Clinton is a corrupt, disingenuous, power-hungry, obsessive radical, and I mean all of that charitably. If I were a member of the left I would move heaven and earth to keep this elitist hypocrite from representing my ideology for a generation. Today’s left is not my grandparent’s Democratic Party. They have sunk into a bifurcated party of either ideological radicals like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, or corrupt public employee unions who have taken the exploitation of under-privileged in our society to a level never before thought possible. The voting base is actually neither of these two groups, but rather hopelessly misguided low-information voters who rightly believe one party is offering them more free cookies than the other party. I prefer an honest ideological debate with the ideological left, but it is mostly elusive. The political climate in the country is bad, right now, really, really bad. Which means that absent a very solid GOP candidate I believe the money of the corrupt leftist unions, the noise of the ideological radicals, and the electoral strongholds of the uninformed will lead to a Hillary Clinton victory. This is a horrifying prospect to me, and I want to win.
Jeb Bush has solid conservative credentials and an extremely impressive resume to run on, but he has the wrong last name, the wrong age, and the wrong reputation to be our candidate to beat Hillary Clinton. For right or for wrong, he has been branded as the “establishment” guy, the term people use only when they actually don’t have anything smart to say about anything, ever. It is a dope’s term – someone who has no argument to make and no analysis to rely on – but it is rhetorically effective. The GOP cannot win with such a high percentage of voters throwing around terms like “moderate” and “establishment”. They cannot win spending six months tarring and feathering a good conservative Governor and then hoping their voters will show up to beat Hillary Clinton. They cannot win with the perception out there that Jeb Bush is soft, weak, and outside the core of their excitable virtues. They cannot win with the right’s version of the low information voter – mostly on the blogosphere and Twitter – bashing the candidate. The cliché of clichés – that perception is reality – is just plain true when it comes to politics, and I do not believe Jeb Bush can overcome the enthusiasm deficit his candidacy represents to capture the nomination.
His last name will kill him in a general election. This idea that Jeb needs to find a way to run away from his brother is absurd. Do you think the media will let him do that, really? Do you think there is any chance that his candidacy will not be made out to be the third term of George W. Bush throughout the entire campaign? There is no amount of money he can spend to overcome what the press will do to him. So why risk it? Why go there? Why take on the baggage of that Presidency if we don’t have to? Well, the answer would be valid if it were “our only choices are Rand Paul or Mike Huckabee”. Yes, sure, then you really don’t have a choice, but that is not the dilemma we face. This year, the right has the likes of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Rick Perry in the race (or potentially in the race). This year we have solid pedigrees, track records of electoral success, and phenomenal executive achievement. Jeb’s reputation, deserved or not, is not a risk we need to take on. And neither is his last name.
There is also the issue of charisma, personality, and connectivity. Jeb is lacking in all three, and another candidate from the great state of Florida is a 20 on a scale of 1-10 in those three categories. I do not know who will win the nomination, but I do know this: Jeb Bush sees his most viable opponent as Marco Rubio, and Hillary Clinton most certainly sees her most viable opponent as Marco Rubio. In fact, I do not believe Hillary believes there is any candidate she cannot beat but Rubio, and I do not believe she thinks she has a chance against him. Most of the country does not know Marco Rubio. When they meet him, she knows they will like him, because everyone likes Marco Rubio. Everyone. Likeability wins elections. Hillary is to likeability what Elizabeth Warren is to native-American. And the only way for Hillary’s intrinsic unlikeability to not do her in is, in my opinion, to render that category a draw.
I work in the business of risk/reward propositions each and every day, and for my money, the trade-off in a Jeb Bush candidacy is a bad risk/reward bet. I’d be more inclined to take that bet on my hypothetical Jeb Smith, but with all the cards we have, I believe we need to play the best hand towards defeating Hillary Clinton. Whether that candidate be Rick Perry (best economic record of any Governor you will find and stunning ability to make that case), John Kasich (win Ohio, win the election), Scott Walker (seems to have tea party right and more center-right folks needed to win an election happy with him), or Marco Rubio (youth, energy, eloquence, charisma, magnetism, solid conservative ideology), we have candidates better suited to take the fight to Hillary and win this election. And for that reason, and that reason only, I cannot support the nomination of Jeb Bush.