Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney have both been subjects of recent rumors about possible 2016 presidential bids. And both would be strong candidates, able, due to their age, disposition and histories, to position themselves as the elder statesman of the Republican field. Mr. Bush, 61, and Mr. Romney, 67, both have the kind of calm and steady temperament that will benefit any Republican seeking to defeat the formidable likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Mr. Romney the 2012 Republican nominee for president, and Mr. Bush, the former governor of Florida and second brother in the Republican Party’s most famous and powerful Republican family, both seem mature, smart and presidential.
Although they would both be strong candidates, capable of building strong organizations and weathering a long difficult campaign, the Republican field is probably not big enough for both Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush. They will both position themselves similarly, and seek support from the same Republican establishment donors and party leaders. Those people want to back a winner more than anything else; and if both Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush are in the race, it will be tough for either to emerge as a clear front-runner. Therefore, both men benefit from making a decision sooner and consolidating their support among the older, more centrist wing of the Republican Party.
In today’s New York Times, Jeb Bush’s possible 2016 candidacy received the kind of coverage that his older brother and father rarely received from that newspaper, and that could help him move ahead of Mr. Romney. The front page article consisted largely of a highly controlled Bush family message seeking to demonstrate that Jeb is his own man. Mr. Bush’s son, Jeb Bush Jr., who acts as the family spokesperson in the piece, referring to the question of whether or not his father will run, states, “I don’t think it’ll be like a big [family] internal straw poll.” The younger Bush also added a remark about his mother indicating that Columba Bush will defer to her husband’s decision. “But she loves Dad and she loves the country, and I think she’ll be supportive.” This was in part a contrast with the Romney family, that appears to be more involved in discussions about, and is already less decisive regarding, Mitt Romney’s possible 2016 run.
Jeb Bush Jr. gets the last word in the article and uses that opportunity to communicate the central rationale for his father’s campaign. “If there’s one guy out there who knows how to run a presidential campaign, it’s definitely him,” adding “(h)e’s been around it, really, since 1980. He understands the full-court press.”
It is difficult to know how the story that Jeb Bush might run for President got to the front page of the New York Times despite actually important things that happened yesterday, like the election in Ukraine, or the postseason emergence of Madison Bumgarner as a kind of gentile, good old boy Sandy Koufax. Nonetheless, the placement of the story and the extraordinary way Mr. Bush’s people controlled the message indicates that should he run, Jeb Bush could be a very strong candidate.
Lincoln Mitchell is the national political correspondent for the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell.