Why Jeb Bush Could Run in 2008

OpinionJournal editor Brendan Miniter thinks we should be careful about writing off the possibility of a Jeb Bush candidacy in 2008.

Bush 44

He denies he’s even interested, and a long list of political analysts have already written him off with the belief that the appearance of political nepotism would be too unseemly for voters to put the brother of the current president in the Oval Office. But in politics timing is everything, and as the clock advances towards 2008, things are starting to fall into place to give Jeb Bush the momentum he needs to win the White House. And this isn’t contingent on Hillary Clinton emerging as the Democrats’ nominee–though if she does, the path will be all the smoother for another Bush.


Ideas matter more in politics than having an “electable” candidate. Right now the ideas of the Bush family are ascendant. Bush 43 didn’t win the White House on the coattails of his father. Name recognition didn’t hurt, nor had all the contacts he’d made in politics. But the fact that Bush 41 lost to Bill Clinton in 1992 meant that George W. Bush had a particularly steep hill to climb within his own party. Republicans who stayed home to see the father lose would not have put the son over the top in 2000 unless he’d won them over first.

Before stepping out onto the national stage, this Bush generation’s ideas of incrementally smaller government proved popular with voters in two large states. George W. Bush defeated Democratic incumbent Ann Richards in 1994 to become governor of Texas and was re-elected in 1998. The Lone Star State is clearly among the most conservative in the country, but Gov. Bush helped turn what was once a reliably Democratic state into one where Republicans now dominate. Jeb, meanwhile, lost a hard-fought race for governor in Florida in 1994. But he came back four years later and was re-elected in 2002, despite the residual bitterness from the 2000 presidential election and the Democrats’ decision to make his defeat a priority.

With a strong string of electoral victories, why would Republicans now turn their backs on the Bushes? It certainly wouldn’t be because of Jeb’s record in Florida. He’s been steadily amassing an antitax, bedrock conservative record over the past seven years. There’s not much there that the party’s base is going to hate. Indeed, before he lost in 1994, the scuttlebutt on Jeb was that he was “the conservative Bush.”


Perhaps the most compelling reason why Jeb Bush shouldn’t be written off just yet came Friday with the Labor Department’s latest jobs numbers. With some 200,000 net new jobs created in July and some 3.5 million new jobs over the past two years, it’s getting harder to deny we are now in the midst of a Bush boom. John Kerry’s claims of a jobless recovery notwithstanding, every job lost after the dot-com crash and the 9/11 attacks has long since been replaced. True, the housing market may yet tumble. But the Fed keeps raising interest rates out of fear the economy will get too hot, not too cold. If we get three more years of solid economic expansion, voters may decide that keeping a Bush in the White House is good for their wallets. After all, the Bush tax cuts are now set to expire in the middle of the next president’s first term.

Aside from the tax cuts, it’s rather absurd to suggest that George W. Bush has given us “incrementally smaller government.” Federal spending and the span of control over things previously the province of state and local governments now under federal control have continued to expand under his watch.

That aside, even his own father has admitted that the country is unlikely to be ready for another Bush in 2008. Jeb is still young enough that he could run in 2012 or even 2016, if a Republican wins again in 2012.

Aside from the family name issue, which may or may not be an asset in a couple of years depending on how Iraq and some other issues develop, Jeb has some serious family issues to consider. His wife and daughter are both political liabilities. While neither’s issues are sufficient to deny him the presidency, he may not wish to have them dragged through the mud for an entire presidential election cycle.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ugh says:

    Why are his wife and daughter political liabilities? Just curious.

  2. Mark says:

    I’m with Ugh.

    I understand (to a degree) the daughter with her drug troubles, but I have heard nothing about Jeb’s wife. Have I missed something?

  3. Michael says:

    I think she’s a liability because she voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004! 🙂

    In all seriousness, if Jeb runs in 2008, consider the Democrats winners. Americans hate dynasty more than just about anything.

    It’s why America exists, now that I think about it.

  4. Michael says:

    I think she’s a liability because she voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004! 🙂

    In all seriousness, if Jeb runs in 2008, consider the Democrats winners. Americans hate dynasty more than just about anything.

    It’s why America exists, now that I think about it!

  5. Lex says:

    I got a laugh out of the “incrementally smaller government” line too.

    President Bush is now outspending Bill Clinton by 38%. Factor in the record deficits, and Bush is the least fiscally conservative president we’ve had in 40 years.

  6. Mark says:

    I know Michael was being humorous in his comment, but I really want to know why Jeb’s wife would be a liability. I have not read anything where she has been outspoken about anything (it may be in the FL papers, but I have yet to see it on a national outlet or a blog).

  7. James Joyner says:

    There have been a few incidents involving Mrs. Bush, most notably this one:

    St. Petersburg Times, published June 22, 1999

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday that his wife misled U.S. Customs officials about $19,000 in new clothing and jewelry she brought into the country because she didn’t want him to know how much she had spent on her five-day Paris shopping trip.

    Forced to explain his wife’s actions at the Atlanta airport Thursday, Bush said Monday that the episode had disrupted their family life. His wife, Bush said, feels “horrible about this.”

    “It was a difficult weekend at our house,” Bush said.

    On Friday, the Bushes disclosed that Columba Bush had paid a $4,100 fine and was briefly detained by Customs agents for failing to declare merchandise when she arrived at Hartsfield International Airport. With that, the low profile enjoyed by the governor’s quiet wife ended. “Shop ’til you drop,” read a headline Saturday in the Bush’s new hometown paper, the Tallahassee Democrat.

    In his first public remarks about the Customs fine, Bush on Monday declined to specify exactly what his wife had purchased, and he tried to guard her privacy.

    “I love my wife more than life — she is my comfort and I am very proud of her. . . . What she does with our money is our business — she can deal with that with me,” Bush told reporters before signing into law the education reform package that is the biggest achievement of his first year in office.

    The U.S. Customs Service, meantime, disclosed that Mrs. Bush had been given two chances to truthfully identify the amount of federal duty she owed on her purchases.

    On a mandatory declaration form handed out Thursday on her Delta flight from France to Atlanta, Mrs. Bush falsely stated she had purchased $500 worth of goods, according to the Bushes and a U.S. Customs service spokesman.

    Customs agents then found some shopping receipts in her purse. But Mrs. Bush declined the opportunity to change her declaration, Customs spokesman Patrick Jones said.

    After that, Customs agents searched her luggage and found the merchandise. At that point Mrs. Bush confessed to all of her purchases, telling agents she did not answer truthfully at first because she did not want her husband to know how much she had spent, according to Bush spokesman Cory Tilley.

  8. Mark says:


    Thanks. I honestly have not read that anywhere until now. However, since this happened back in 1999 and since that time Bush has been re-elected handily in Florida, I would suspect this incident was dismissed by voters.