Jeb Bush in 2008?
Zev Chafets argues in his New York Daily News column that Jeb Bush is the obvious Republican nominee in 2008, despite the conventional wisdom and his adamance about not running.
Even before this year’s election, Jeb Bush was being asked about his aspirations. On Oct. 17, he declared on ABC, “I’m not going to run in 2008. That’s not my interest.” But last week, in a meeting with The Washington Times editorial board, Ken Mehlman, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, put Jeb back in the race. Responding to a question, Mehlman mentioned eight potential candidates for 2008: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Virginia Sen. George Allen, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, Arizona Sen. John McCain, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani – and Jeb Bush.
Four years is a long way off. But if Jeb does run, he has a real shot at the nomination. Pataki and Giuliani may be too liberal on “values” issues to win red-state primaries. Romney’s from Massachusetts. Owens and Allen are unknowns from second-tier states. McCain, the media’s candidate, is a cancer survivor who will be 72 in 2008. Frist has a golden rÃƒ©sumÃƒ© but he’s a snooze.
Jeb is head and shoulders above this field. He’s the popular governor of a crucial state. Fluent in Spanish, married to a Mexican, the darling of the Cuban community, he has vast appeal to the constituency the GOP most covets: Hispanics. He’s conservative on social issues but comes across as less regional and ideological than his brother George. Jeb is a Southern Republican who sounds like a Democrat. In 2002, he won reelection in Florida, an evenly split state, by 13 points.
If Jeb’s last name weren’t Bush, he would be the obvious early favorite for 2008. But it is, and some experts believe it disqualifies him. Supposedly, the public will not elect two brothers in a row. After all, it has never happened. But modern American politics is strewn with the debris of such precedents. Before the Clintons, nobody dreamed that a former First Lady could become a senator and viable presidential contender. Until Ronald Reagan, the idea of a Hollywood actor in the White House seemed absurd. In 1960, John Kennedy appointed his 35-year-old brother, Bobby, attorney general, and two years later, he leaned on Massachusetts Democrats to make the spectacularly unqualified 30-year-old Teddy a senator.
Aside from the probable public reluctance to elect a third Bush in a span of four presidencies, one huge obstacle to a Jeb Bush in 2008 bid is his wife, Columba, who may make Teresa Heinz Kerry look “normal” in comparison. Her history of odd behavior, including petty crimes, along with the drug arrest of their daughter Noelle, might make the scrutiny of a presidential run more trouble than it’s worth. Jeb is arguably the most natural politician of the Bush politicos, and undoubtedly the most articulate. I’m not sure that he wants the presidency enough to go through two years of hell for it, though.