LOS ANGELES, June 16, 2015 — As former Florida Governor Jeb Bush reminded us all, he met his first president when he was born and his second one when he was brought home from the hospital. The son of George Herbert Walker Bush and the younger brother of George W. Bush officially entered the presidential race yesterday to great fanfare. At a boisterous rally in Miami, Jeb Bush gave a passionate address that was heavier on substance than most presidential announcements.
Jeb Bush is another traditional Republican from a Grand Old Party that always picks a safe establishment candidates. He is also the most confounding candidate in modern times. Both the left and the right seem to completely misread what he is about. Never has a candidate been so dissected incorrectly.
His advantages are obvious. The Republican Party 100% of the time picks the candidate who is next in line. Six Powerful Bald White Guys (PBWGs) get in a room and decide whose turn it is. The establishment has anointed Bush, and will be showering him with at least one-hundred millions of dollars to bury his primary opponents. His wife is Latina, and Bush speaks fluent Spanish.
His disadvantages are a conservative primary electorate that is hostile to him on two fronts. His stance on immigration is mistaken for amnesty, but some tough rhetoric about securing the border first could quell that fire. Where he will really be under siege is his support for Common Core. Conservatives despise Common Core and all the federal misery that accompanies it. Common Core is to education what the Affordable Care Act is to healthcare. Making matters worse is the fact that Bush has a financial stake in the company that produces many of the Common Core textbooks. The charge of crony capitalism has to be addressed.
His last name may be a liability in the general election, but should not hurt him in the primary.
Despite coming from the most well known Republican family not named Reagan, Jeb Bush is misunderstood. Both liberals and conservatives think that Bush is a moderate they are all wrong.
Most candidates get into trouble by allowing soaring words to be followed by inferior deeds. The current president is flailing under the weight of lofty promises unmet. With Bush, the incredibly odd reversal is taking place. His words have been sharply criticized. If he was only judged on his record, he would be a conservative hero.
Jeb Bush was a very conservative Florida Governor. He was more ideological than his brother and certainly more so than their father. Even conservatives frustrated with his campaign stances concede that he was an excellent governor.
He united the Florida GOP and moved the state sharply to the right. Florida Republicans still control the governorship and both houses of the state legislature. Unlike some governors who seize the party apparatus for themselves, Bush built the GOP into a position of dominance.
On the domestic front, he cut taxes and was overwhelmingly pro-business. His social conservatism was never more on display than during the contentious fight over Terry Schiavo. His stances on guns, crime, Israel and radical Islam are all within the mainstream of the conservative wing of the GOP.
If Bush was only being judged on his record, he would be fine. This makes his post-office remarks even more head-scratching. Many conservatives have no idea why he would throw away a solid conservative record by promising to take positions that make conservatives ill.
One theory is that Bush is simply running a stealth candidacy. This worked for his brother. George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative, but for most of his first six years in office he governed from the right. George W. Bush spoke about warm fuzzy issues such as education during the 2000 election. After the election he rammed through tax cuts. Circumstances led him to become a wartime president. Education was not his top priority.
If Jeb Bush is pretending to be a moderate, that will enrage the left when they realize how conservative he has always been. The issue is not whether he supports Common Core. The issue is how far he willing to fight for it. Conservatives simply do not know. They are not willing to gamble that his movement to the center is just political positioning.
Whether Jeb is crazy like a fox or too cute by half will be seen when the votes from the early primary and caucus states come in.
Those who say Jeb is just another moderate like his father are ignoring one fact that cannot be ignored. Jeb’s record is there. That record is conservative.
Normally candidates allow their rhetoric to deflect away from their record when that record is terrible. The Democrat frontrunner cannot name a single accomplishment she has ever had. Jeb is running away from a record that is overwhelmingly positive. This could mean that while he won the policy battles, Democrats successfully damaged his family name among swing voters. He may have to focus on a style that enrages conservatives to get the substantive policies passed into law.
It worked in 2000 and could again. It could also blow up. Common Core truly is that hated on the right.
No matter what happens, only one thing is certain. Jeb Bush was a very successful conservative governor. He may wish to remind the right of that rather than continue feeding internal conflicts that even one-hundred million dollars of campaign advertisements cannot repair.