Hillary Clinton 2016 is of obviously the Democrats’ only game in town. Fine, no big deal.
But Jeb Bush 2016 is slowly and subtly emerging without a pronounced push by surrogates, the cable news media, or the man himself. According to yesterday’s Quinnipiac Poll, the former governor of Florida leads his state’s GOP voters with 22%, ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio at 18%, Gov. Chris Christie at 14%, and Lookatmelookatmelookatme Ted Cruz at 12%. (He also loses against Hillary there in a general, but that’s to be expected at this pre-campaign stage.)
Jebbie will win Florida after a surprisingly good second- or third-place showing in Iowa and after giving Christie a run for his put-it-all-on-New-Hampshire money, after letting Cruz or whatever whackjob is surging at the time win in South Carolina.
Jeb’s replacement of Rubio as Florida’s favorite favorite son is no surprise — Republican Floridians naturally support a hometown pol but right now Rubio is cowering from his immigration bill screw-up, which is why the senator is now kowtowing to social conservatives who more naturally prefer the likes of Ugly-Ryan-Reynolds-Rick Santorum (or, if they’re feeling post-racial, Ted Cruz) to ‘moderates’ like Jeb and Christie.
Marco Rubio can hardly be described as a substantive candidate with a real vision. He has proven himself to be an amateur, an ineffective flash-in-the-pan nobody, and he may have his hands more full in 2016 dealing with Allen West than with preserving a front-runner status that disappeared the second he sipped water on national TV. (Still a step up from Jindal’s 2009 response to the President.)
While Rubio proves his amateurishness, Jeb has hung back, letting Rubio champion an immigration bill then fail spectacularly, a bill that was supposed to cement Rubio as the GOP emissary to the Latino community. That legislative failure aside, Rubio might then claim he’s the only one who could reach out to that ever-growing voting block. He’s wrong, of course, because Jeb need only stand beside his wife and put his son, the next Texas Land Commissioner (because George Prescott has always been interested in land commissioning and not running for Governor in 2018 — Wendy Davis may be the Bushes’ best friend if she wins next year’s election), on the stump. Jeb can easily prove to the definitely-not-a-racist-fans-of-Joe-Arpaio voters that he won’t alienate Latinos but sure as hell is a lot safer to vote for than one.
Yes, Jeb is the ideal candidate for GOP primary voters who know (because O’Reilly and Hannity tell ’em so, with aid from luminaries like Charles Krauthammer and George Will) that indeed Latinos vote in this country and in high numbers. These voters, in their nuanced/reductive reasoning, can vote for Jeb knowing his family is, in itself, a much more palpable Latino Issues platform than is a tab on a campaign website. And just as Jeb embodies the establishment candidate position much more effectively (and somehow tacitly) than Christie, so he also nabs credibility on Latino issues. He speaks Spanish, converted to Catholicism, is in a long marriage with a Mexican woman, and his brother’s presidency had fewer deportations than President Obama’s. Add to that the fact that W. attempted an immigration bill which was destroyed by the far right, and Jeb is suddenly a pretty palatable candidate on Latino issues for voters who will be a wee bit less xenophobic regarding immigrants once the right-wing media tells them it’s okay to be.
Jeb is the consensus candidate. So was his brother. George W. appealed to Christian Evangelicals, old school Establishment types, Southerners, Wall Street, big oil and defense contractors, and every politician working since 1972, and still seemed like a decent dude. That was 2000. Now, the GOP has to appeal to all those groups but also has to not only pretextually appeal to Latinos but also to their white-white-white base, the kind of people who want to git rid of dem illeeegals but also win elections with a ‘real conservative.’
With Rubio trapped without an issue, he’s running to the social right in a desperate move resonant of Rick Perry’s pre-Iowa gay bashathon. He thought he’d be Romney’s running mate. Then he thought he’d be the lone Latino running for the nomination until Cruz showed up. Cruz, of course, has eclipsed Rubio on the national stage just by being loud and obnoxious. So Rubio figured he could be the establishment guy (despite being perhaps the Tea Party’s greatest success). Then Christie took that role. So now he’s what, the 2016 Santorum? Well, Santorum will be the 2016 Santorum, and Cruz is going to out-maniac all of them in any way he can. So at least Rubio had Florida tied up, and could do the old Rudy Giuliani 2008 model of losing everything and winning Florida. Not so much.
Nope, Jeb Bush really does suck the air out of everyone’s candidacies. And quickly, all the candidates will realize it and pile on him the way the Democratic candidates did on Hillary in 2008 and the Republicans did to Mitt Romney in 2012. The difference between the Democrats in 2008 and the 2016 Republicans? The alternative was clearly Barack Obama. Who’s the Jeb Bush alternative? Probably Christie (or maybe Paul Ryan). But Christie is not enough of a contrast to Bush that he can really siphon the anti-Bush voters into his camp. Walker thinks he’s going to somehow explode onto the national stage, but what he what lacks in Obama’s charisma and likability he makes up for in lack of charisma and lack of likability. With no real alternative, the we-can’t-nominate-a-moderate-or-we’ll-lose-! crowd will splinter themselves among Cruz, Rubio, and Santorum, who themselves will be so desperate for that vote that they’ll do more and more outlandish things to grasp it, and flounder as Newt Gingrich and Santorum did after the 2012 South Carolina primary. Meanwhile, Rand Paul will keep on chugging with his 25%, which will never go for the anti-Jeb candidate, and help Jeb win pluralities through Super Tuesday.
Jeb’s got it all locked up. All he has to do is be himself.