In the wake of the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal plaguing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, establishment Republicans are throwing support behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as their 2016 presidential candidate of choice.
Although Bush and his advisors insist a decision won’t come before the end of 2014, he’s been acting more like a candidate. He appears at the right places at the right times to offer his take on policy positions, according to The Washington Post.
And those who once supported Mitt Romney are now casting their eyes on Florida. The Post reported:
Many if not most of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, e-mails and invitations to meet, according to interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.
“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said Brian Ballard, a Florida bundler who qualifies as establishment GOP, especially after sitting on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about [a Bush candidacy].”
The push to find a Republican standard bearer this early in the game may be rooted in something beyond the Christie “Bridgegate” debacle. Also at play is the meteoric rise of young Republicans like Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Tennessee, who both prefer conservative principles over party politics. And that scares the establishment.
“These days, there are two silos of the Republican Party: the regular Republicans, if you will, and the movement-conservative coalition that’s united by anti-establishment rhetoric and populism,” said Bush strategist Mike Murphy, according to Breitbart News. “If Cruz runs, he is going to be the strongest candidate in that movement — conservative silo. He’s charismatic and highly intelligent and says what the base wants to hear. He could maybe even win the nomination, and on the way, he’d be a huge obstacle to Santorum, Huckabee and Paul. But he’d be a disaster in a general election — a Republican George McGovern.”
But that’s not to say that a Bush candidacy wouldn’t come with its own baggage.
He’s been out of the political arena and the public consciousness for seven years — a lifetime in politics.
Although he had a decent record as Florida’s governor, one issue he supported could cause conservatives to sit this one out. With Romney in 2012, it was RomneyCare. In a Bush 2016 run, it would be Common Core standards in public schools, which is fast growing out of favor.
Finally, although the Bush name is respected now more than it was during the final days of his brother’s presidency, it’s still anathema in some circles, albeit among those unlikely to vote for any Republican — even those running without opposition.
Still, the Bush name carries a lot of weight in establishment Republican circles — and with weight comes the grease that keeps the gears in any political campaign running smoothly: money.
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