Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has not made any formal moves to indicate he will run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, but he is already rated as the top contender by one university, even though he does not lead in any preliminary presidential polls.
“We now consider Bush the leader of the field if he decides to run,” the University of Virginia Center for Politics’s “Crystal Ball” concluded after updating its 2016 ratings.
A Reuters report indicated that Jeb Bush was giving a 2016 candidacy “a serious look,” and those in his inner circle have said he has not brushed off the thought of getting back into the political fray as he had in previous cycles. The Center for Politics reasoned that because of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal, and because the “establishment loves him,” Bush would start at the top of the field.
“In recent months, we’ve noticed an unmistakable and widespread desire among some of the Republicans we talk to, particularly ones who would be classified as members of the establishment on and off Capitol Hill, for a third Bush nominee in less than three decades,” they write. “In one conversation, we mentioned several other potential candidates on our list, but the chatter kept coming back to Jeb. He was the only candidate with whom these party leaders appeared to be comfortable.”
Their analysis, though, does not mention the extent to which Jeb Bush is distrusted by the conservative base in an election cycle in which there will be many top contenders – like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker – who will appeal to them. In other cycles – like 2012 – in which an establishment Republican has breezed to the nomination, there weren’t that many strong conservative candidates.
Other top-tier candidates on the list include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Second-tier contenders on the list include Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and interestingly Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a candidate hardly anyone has mentioned in the same breath as even Rubio or Cruz. Wild cards include Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.
The center’s “also-rans” list includes Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Putting Perry on the “also-ran” list is a bit strange because he did come in third in a recent poll of 2016 presidential GOP presidential contenders that CNN/ORC recently conducted after CPAC and would have a much better shot at winning the nomination than Kasich, whom they place two tiers above Perry.
There has been more chatter surrounding Bush after Christie’s struggles. Allies like Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) have gone to the press to indicate that Bush is “leaning toward joining what promises to be a crowded field of Republican presidential contenders.”