Jeb Bush Makes Big Move, Names Top Conservative Campaign Manager

Jeb Bush
The Associated Press
Washington, DC

Danny Diaz of FP1 Strategies, a Republican political consulting firm, will be former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign manager if Bush, as expected, announces he’s running for president.

It’s a big move by Bush’s team, and a clear sign he’s making efforts to win back conservative voters and make inroads party-wide rather than just winning the establishment side of the primaries. Diaz has a long-standing positive reputation with tons of top conservatives, and has been plugged in with not just establishment Republicans but conservatives Washington-wide for years.

“Danny Diaz, a 39-year-old Washington, D.C., native who has worked for the past three Republican presidential nominees, will serve as campaign manager of Jeb Bush’s anticipated presidential campaign,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday. “The job of running day-to-day campaign operations had been expected to go to David Kochel, who will instead serve as chief strategist in early-nominating states, including Iowa, and across the country. Mr. Kochel ran 2012 nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign in Iowa and was recruited by Mr. Bush in January when Mr. Romney was considering getting into the race.”

Back in January, when Kochel joined Bush’s team, the New York Times wrote that he was “is in line to serve as Mr. Bush’s national campaign manager.”

“David is one of the most talented state-based operatives in the nation and brings a different focus and different set of priorities to our effort to communicate Governor Bush’s focus on economic and social mobility,” longtime Bush strategist Sally Bradshaw said at the time.

At the time, Mitt Romney was still considering a third run for the White House—something he’s since disavowed.

“The move to tap Mr. Kochel, who advised Mr. Romney for over six years, represents a shot across the bow of the 2012 Republican nominee, who is now considering a third bid for the White House,” the Times’ Jonathan Martin wrote. “Mr. Kochel offered only praise for Mr. Romney, while also promoting Mr. Bush’s strengths.”

The move to put Diaz in the top slot instead of Kochel comes just days before Bush’s expected June 15 presidential campaign announcement, and represents a clear sign of at least some turmoil. Bush’s team has been a consortium of respected and conservative Republican operatives, and people throughout the Washington establishment. Communications director Tim Miller, who left GOP opposition research firm America Rising earlier this year, is well-respected throughout the Republican Party but ex-House Speaker John Boehner spokesman Michael Steel—who’s disliked in many GOP circles—is a senior strategist for Bush.

It’ll be interesting to see what focus Diaz puts on the Bush for president effort, and it appears this move is a blatant effort by the struggling former Florida Governor to regain strength among the Republican base—a place where Gov. Scott Walker has dominated as of late.

The Wisconsin governor remains atop the polls, and candidates including Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other grassroots conservatives such as Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have gained traction as well.

It’s also a sign that the other GOP establishment candidate, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)—who’s quickly been realigning most of Bush’s apparatus behind himself, all while pushing exactly the same big government policies as Bush—is in even more serious trouble as Bush’s operation seems to be headed away from chaos and toward organization. If Bush’s team wants to take out Rubio, who threatens their ability to consolidate the establishment behind Bush—they’re now in an even better position to do so.