Many prominent GOP establishment figures with deep ties and loyalties to the Bush family trekked to College Station, Texas last weekend not only to celebrate the 25th anniversary of George H.W. Bush’s presidency but also to convince former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to run for president in 2016.
BuzzFeed reported that many of the establishment Republican elders who gathered to celebrate George H.W. Bush’s legacy “had another, much simpler agenda: launching a Jeb Bush presidential campaign.”
Andy Card, the former Secretary of Commerce under George W. Bush and a longtime family confidant, told the outlet, “We have a responsibility to make sure Jeb runs.”
“If Jeb Bush does not run, shame on us,” Card reportedly said. “I would work in a Jeb administration in a heartbeat.”
BuzzFeed observed that the attendees felt that Obama has been a disaster and “Bush World” is the answer.
“Those of us who support [H.W. Bush] know that he was worthy of a second term,” Jim McGrath, a spokesperson for George H.W. Bush, told the outlet. “The Bush style of leadership needs to return to Washington.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who Bush family loyalists tried to denigrate as a potential disaster waiting to happen, has repeatedly emphasized that George H.W. Bush won the presidency in 1988 when he ran for Reagan’s third term as a conservative and lost four years later when he broke his promise to Americans, raised taxes, and ran as a moderate.
BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith noted that Bush’s embrace of moderate policies is a considerable weakness to a potential candidacy, not even withstanding how rusty Jeb will be in a campaign dominated by a news cycle that is light years faster than the one he experienced during his last campaign, which was 12 years ago. Former President Bill Clinton infamously had trouble adjusting to the media “Freak Show” during his wife’s failed bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.
Jeb Bush, who would attempt to become the third Bush to occupy the White House if he chooses to run, said at the event that illegal immigration was an “act of love” and Americans should not be riled up over it. He said he was “totally committed” to the controversial Common Core education standards.
And Smith noted that Bush’s deep commitment to centrist causes is emblematic of a candidate who has “missed the transformation of his brother from Republican savior to squish,” “the rise of the tea party,” the rightward turn Mitt Romney had to take to get the 2012 GOP nomination, and the rise of politicians like Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Sarah Palin that appeal fervently to the conservative base in a party. That base, according to Gallup, has become more conservative over the last 14 years.
Smith notes that the Bush name may not be toxic–without mentioning that the Tea Party in part formed in opposition to George W. Bush’s domestic agenda and wants to take down the Republican establishment that, to them, is synonymous with “Bush.”
There are also no guarantees, according to national polls by mainstream media organizations, that Bush would be that formidable in a general election.
Though Jeb Bush may be the top choice among the GOP elite and establishment, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that half the country would “definitely” not vote for him in a general election, which undercuts the primary argument for a potential Bush candidacy: electability.