WASHINGTON, June 14, 2015 — On Monday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will enter the presidential race. Even though he has not formally announced, some claim that the campaign is already struggling.
This is an odd claim, given that Jeb is at the top of most national polls. He is likely to be the fundraising leader in the race—by a lot. A growing narrative is that he has lost momentum, that he doesn’t inspire the Republican grassroots and activists, and that eventually another candidate, probably Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker or Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, will displace him.
We shouldn’t write off Jeb just yet. We are more than six months away from the first ballot being cast in the first primary. A lot will happen between now and then; in politics, six months is an eternity.
Jeb struck the right tone in his launch video, which was released today.
The video humanizes Jeb. It also touches on his record as Florida governor and how he fought for those most vulnerable in society. It features actual people who benefitted from his policies. Finally, the video lays out what will be the narrative of his campaign, upward mobility or, as he calls it, the “right to rise.”
The perceived leadership failing that hurt Mitt Romney badly in 2012 was that he “cares about people like me.” By focusing on the poor, the disabled and victims of domestic violence, Jeb is determined not to be defined as an out-of-touch plutocrat as Romney was. He is also trying to revive the “compassionate conservatism” that his brother campaigned on in 2000, which may have some appeal as the Republican Party tries to appeal to working class voters of all races. Finally, his appeal to Hispanics and particularly Mexican-Americans cannot be denied.
Jeb still has many problems. His biggest one in the GOP nomination contest is that he is unapologetically pro-immigration in a party that is increasingly anti-immigration. Another is that he was last in office in 2006. A lot has changed since then. It is hard to see how he will contrast himself with Hillary Clinton and win over groups such as millennials that he will desperately need.
Finally, although Jeb, just like every other candidate, should be judged on his own merits, many people find it hard to look past his last name. This is a problem that Hillary faces as well, but as for Hillary, it is a problem that comes with powerful connections. Whether it will be better to be a Bush or a Clinton than not is hard to predict.
Jeb Bush, like all candidates, has his negatives, but it will be hard for Republicans to ignore his many positives as a candidate.