It is looking increasingly likely that Jeb Bush will be a candidate for president in 2016. According to The Wall Street Journal, Republican strategists are urging him to run, and many around the former Florida governor — brother of one Republican president, and son of another – say that he is giving the race serious thought. It is difficult not to see Mr. Bush’s potential candidacy in the context of family legacies and dynastic politics, but once that is overcome, his candidacy begins to make a fair amount of sense.
Despite efforts by likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to distance herself from the President in whose administration she served at a very high level for four years, the Democrats will have to run on the mixed record of a president who is not popular. Accordingly, they will probably seek to make the race not about Ms. Clinton but about her Republican opponent. If somebody like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio gets the nomination, the Democrats will try to portray the Republican candidate as holding extreme views, being out of step with most American voters and unprepared for the job.
In that kind of a race, the best Republican plan would be to nominate a candidate who is professional, somewhat polished and even a little bland. Mr. Bush fits that description well. He is less controversial or given to gaffes and extremist statements than most of his likely opponents. This would make it tough for Ms. Clinton and the Democrats to make the campaign about him. Despite belonging to one of America’s most well-known political families, Mr. Bush is hardly a magnet for controversy and is, by virtue of that family, more experienced in national politics than his likely opponents for the Republican nomination.
Joseph Mercurio, a longtime media consultant and instructor of political communication at Fordham University summarized Bush’s strengths as a candidate. “Governors tend to run better manages campaigns presidential campaigns, which will be an advantage for Jeb Bush…That his father and brother have raised money in presidential campaigns will give him the experience and infrastructure for a substantial fundraising machine.” Mercurio also noted that “If he (Bush) can be seen to gain access to Hispanic voters” with whom he has done well in the past, “in the general and raises large amounts in the primary he could be a strong contender.”
Bush is also seen as more of a moderate thus making him a stronger general election candidate, but far from a sure winner in a competitive Republican primary. In many respects, Bush’s strength as a candidate is that he is relatively bland and, for his party, moderate. In this regard, he seems a lot more like his father than his brother.
Lincoln Mitchell is the national political correspondent for the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell.