Whenever the pundit class and party elites discuss the issue of “electability” in presidential elections, they are usually talking about fringe candidates with small bases of support that more often than not are running only to get a book deal or talk show.
But sometimes the candidate that is deemed unelectable is not only in the top-tier of the race but is perceived front runner. We saw this in the 2008 Republican primary where in the months leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was considered by all in Washington as the man to beat.
He had locked down a lot of the early money and party support, with the famously pro-choice mayor gaining the endorsement of famous evangelical leader Pat Robertson. However, Giuliani decided to skip the first four caucuses and primaries and instead wait until the Florida Primary. This strategy failed miserably. Giuliani ended up placing a distant third behind Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and winning only one delegate during his whole campaign.
Fast forward to 2015 and Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor is being touted as the “establishment choice” among a field of ambitious and talent rivals that include Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the last of which being a particular threat due to his popularity among the GOP donor class like billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adleson.
And while it is clear that each one of those Republican challengers have their strong backers in the party, it’s not clear what if any support there is for Bush among the grassroots. Whats more, he seems more than willing to openly antagonize them with his support for national education curriculum a-la Common Core and advocacy for liberal immigration policies (I’m in total agreement with the governor on the second policy, by the way, which is much more in line with the pre-Tea Party GOP).
And lately news hasn’t been getting any better for the brother of the last Republican president. After being asked Monday by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly if he would, knowing what he knows now, still decide to invade in Iraq, Bush answered that he would, and adding that so would Hillary Clinton, implying that the governor didn’t understand the question.
And just today at at a town hall-style meeting in Reno, Nevada a college student accused that the former President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was chiefly responsible for starting ISIS. Here’s a snippet of that exchange.
“It was when 30,000 individuals who were part of the Iraqi military were forced out — they had no employment, they had no income, and they were left with access to all of the same arms and weapons,” Ms. Ziedrich said.
She added: “Your brother created ISIS.”
Mr. Bush interjected. “All right. Is that a question?”
Ms. Ziedrich was not finished. “You don’t need to be pedantic to me, sir.”
“Pedantic? Wow,” Mr. Bush replied.
Then Ms. Ziedrich asked: “Why are you saying that ISIS was created by us not having a presence in the Middle East when it’s pointless wars where we send young American men to die for the idea of American exceptionalism? Why are you spouting nationalist rhetoric to get us involved in more wars?”
As of now, while the Bush campaign-to-be isn’t quite in full damage control, they certainly can’t be happy about the bad press they’re getting. And while it is still very early in the race (Bush hasn’t even declared for president yet for God’s sake) it is hard to see just what Bush’s path to the nomination is.
Yes, he’s the main establishment candidate. But both Marco Rubio and Scott Walker could easily fill those roads and garner plenty of grassroots to boot. He is skipping the early primaries and ranks very low in most polls, coming in behind Donald “The Donald” Trump in many cases.
And even if he did win the nomination it is likely to be due to massive and unlikely flameout of his other GOP rivals. The general election would not be much easier. It’s tough to see where Bush expands the electoral map beyond the Romney states, which is a proven losing strategy.
And worst of all, a Jeb Bush nomination would kneecap the main argument Republicans have against Hillary Clinton: That she is the past from a politically-dynastic family. And if Americans are forced to choose, they’ll likely go with the dynasty they have fonder memories of, as well as the first woman president, which is Hillary Clinton.
So to put it plainly: Jeb Bush is unelectable.