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 résumé 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.

JB, R2008

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. GP says:

    You are correct on Frist — he is a major snoozer. At times I have seen him make Kerry look like a clear talking down home sort of guy. Similar to the problem Kerry had, it’s not entirely clear if the guy has a legislative record in the Senate. He is the majority leader which helps, and he has been pretty successful governing a fractious group of Senate republicans. But that didn’t help Bob Dole much.

    Mitt Romney would be a great candidate but for the fact that he is probably going to get trounced in MA for reelection. And I am not sure how the mormon issue would play nationally.

    Pataki makes Frist look exciting. Rudy is a liberal democrat who switched parties for politcal purposes. The red states are not going to vote for a cross-dressing, adulterous, pro gay rights, pro choice New Yorker who lived with homosexuals when his wife threw him out of the mayor’s mansion.

    McCain would be an ideal candidate for winning the general election because of his centrist popularity, but his age and illnesses could be a real factor. Chuck Hagel is another thought to add to the list, and someone with a similar centrist attitude as McCain.

    Depending on how Condi Rice does at State, she could be a viable option. What better way to take away large chunks of the democrats’ usual base than by nominating a black woman. But she’s never run a campaign so it’s a bit of an unknown as to how she would perform. She is smart and disciplined enough that I suspect she would do fine.

    I don’t think Jeb is up for it. And regardless of how Bush does the next 4 years, I think 2 Bushes is all the country can take.

    Without a VP who is going to run (unless Cheney steps down soon), it will be interesting to see how and who Bush indicates as his heir apparent.

  2. Brian says:

    I think Jeb’s day may come, but not in 2008. The only thing that made this past election close was seething hatred for George W Bush. Nothing would re-kindle this fire as much as nominating the President’s brother.

    The bonus for the GOP is that they can take advantage of being the party in power, but won’t have to enter the race with a candidate that motivates his opponent’s base almost as much as his own.

    I like Jeb Bush and I’d like to see him get an honest shot at the White House. If he can continue to solidify his standing in Florida for a couple more terms he has a chance to be the most successful of the three Bush Presidents.

  3. GP says:

    The problem for Jeb is that Florida’s governorship has term limits. So he is out in 2006. If he doesn’t run for something, he risks being forgotten entirely. One option may be to run against Bill Nelson for his Senate seat.