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Friday, July 31, 2015

Candidate Profile: #1. Jeb Bush

It's the end of the month and the end of the series! Thank goodness. I successfully kept up the every other day routine throughout July, although it ultimately came at the risk of my sanity and marriage.

Previous posts:

Tier 4--They Know They Can't Win
7/1: 16. George Pataki
7/10: (15.5. James Gilmore)
7/3: 15. Lindsey Graham
7/5: 14. Carly Fiorina

Tier 3--We Know They Can't Win
7/7: 13. Rick Santorum
7/9: 12. Mike Huckabee
7/11: 11. Donald Trump
7/13: 10. Bobby Jindal

Tier 2--So You're Saying There's a Chance!
7/15: 9. Rick Perry
7/17: 8. Ben Carson
7/19: 7. Ted Cruz
7/21: 6. John Kasich
7/23: 5. Rand Paul
7/25: 4. Chris Christie

Tier 1--The Favorites
7/27: 3. Marco Rubio
7/29: 2. Scott Walker

We've finally arrived at number one, the favorite of The Favorites. The most likely Republican nominee is . . .

Jeb Bush, 62, former Governor of Florida, 1999-2007

Campaign Website and Slogan--www.jeb2016.com--"Jeb!"

PPFA Slogan--"Jeb! That's It. No Last Name. Just Jeb!"

Ideology on liberal-conservative spectrum (-10 is far left and +10 is far right. A center moderate is 0.): +4.25 (Individual rights: +5; domestic issues: +7; economy: +2; foreign policy: +3). Solidly conservative in two areas, surprisingly moderate in two more. The big issue for him, as has been stated numerous times in this countdown, is his moderate stance on immigration (reflected in the "economy" category). This stance, in a nutshell, would allow the millions of illegal immigrants living in America to declare themselves and become temporary residents (buzzword: amnesty). They would then "get in back of the line" to become full-fledged citizens, but in the meantime would continue working and living in the U.S.. The idea is that this plan would get them to start working over the table, pay taxes, get drivers licenses, and integrate with society, but it would not give them any head start on becoming an American. Many conservatives, on the other hand, think that since they broke the law, they should be punished, that a "pathway to citizenship" should be closed off, and some favor outright deportation. (Democrats want easier citizenship, but that might be because they want more voters now instead of tomorrow.)

Conservative Rank based on above: 10 of 16. This ranking, and the platform that created it, are what troubles many in the party's conservative base. More on that in the opponents' spin section.

Spin from the candidate's campaign--The first time a Bush was on a presidential ticket was 1980. From then on, these Bush tickets hold a record of 5-1 in elections. The non-Bush tickets are 0-3. With a tough opponent coming up and electoral math working against their favor, Republicans should go back to these successful roots and support these political titans.

Even better, this latest Bush might be the best one yet. His record as Florida governor was outstanding. During his tenure, the Floridian economy outpaced the American one. Florida added 1.32 million new jobs, a per year average better than the other governors in this race, as shown in this totally unbiased chart from Jeb Bush's website:
Governor Effect 
He cut taxes by $19 billion, reduced the size of government by 6.6 percent, and vetoed $2 billion in state spending. Thanks to his fiscally responsible governance, Florida enjoyed its highest bond rating ever. He did all this while drastically improving Florida's education, empowering patients in their health care, and conserving the Everglades. Floridians awarded him a second term in 1992 by an even wider margin, and he became the first two-term Republican governor in Florida's history. He left with an impressive 64 percent approval rating, much higher than most two-term governors boast by the end of their long tenure, which would probably translate to a win of Florida's gargantuan 29 electoral votes in November.

Beyond policy, he has political advantages as well. The Washington Post has an excellent summary on why it's nearly political suicide for the GOP to continue its alienation of Latinos. No Republican candidate, not even Latino-blooded #3 Marco Rubio or #7 Ted Cruz, has made inroads with the Latino community like Jeb Bush has. He's fluent in Spanish, unlike Cruz, and has been more outspoken on issues important to Latinos than Rubio. His wife, Columba, is Mexican. He took about 60 percent of the Latino vote in his two elections, an excellent number for a Republican, especially when you consider three quarters of Latinos voted against Mitt Romney in 2012. By comparison, barely half voted for John Kerry against George W. Bush in 2004.

The last two Republican victories boasted a Bush as the nominee, strong performances with Latinos, and the state of Florida. The party should go back to what works.

Spin from opponents--Stop it. STOP IT. Not another one. His brother nearly wrecked the party by spending like a Democrat and giving hawks a bad name. Plus, nominating him would really hurt the GOP's chances in November. It was the incomparable presidential politics blog Presidential Politics for America that once said of Jeb Bush, "His nomination punts the greatest advantage the Republicans have against Hillary Clinton--dynastic fatigue. If the GOP wants to take her down, they'll be wise to focus on turning the page on recent American history."

And even if he didn't brandish this unfortunate name, Republicans would still be sending someone who does not hold dear many of their conservative ideals. "He’s too moderate for the Republican base," ageless conservative Pat Buchanan suggested last year. "[The issues] will see him torn apart." For example:
  • He's a lot greener than most Republicans, and seems open to more stringent carbon emissions standards.
  • He's just two years away from praising Hillary Clinton and awarding her the Liberty Medal as Chairman of the National Constitution Center.
  • He's of the sort that believes Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would have a hard time in today's more conservative GOP.
  • This year he essentially said, "Enough about Obamacare!" and the Republican obsession with eradicating it.
  • He said he would hypothetically raise taxes by $1 if he could get $10 in spending cuts to help balance a budget, a Grover Norquist no-no.
  • He stands by his support of the federal government's top-down Common Core, a set of nationalized education standards, and calls the anti-Common Core movement full of "conspiracy theorists."
Most troubling of all is his remarkably Democratic platform on immigration. The apex of his trouble probably came two Aprils ago, when he said of illegal immigrants, “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. . . . I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place.” Larry Thornberry of the American Spectator asserts that:
Many conservatives don’t trust Bush on immigration. There’s no reason for them to. Bush favors the “comprehensive” approach to immigration that would almost certainly give incentive for millions more low-skill, no-skill folks from south of the border to come to El Norte, where there will be no jobs for them but plenty of expensive government services, and hundreds of Democratic supervisors of elections eager to squeeze these new undocumented Democrats into voting booths. There is nothing in Jeb Bush’s actions and public remarks on immigration which would lead anyone to believe that as president he would be serious about sealing the country’s southern border or obliging those who are here illegally to return to their home countries. In Republican primaries, this is a vote loser.
Finally, this column from the Washington Examiner sums up the feelings of several high profile conservatives, including talk show hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, and Brent Bozell, leader of the Media Research Center and the conservative group ForAmerica. Bozell sums up the stance of many in the conservative base about electing another moderate: "We've said it before and we say it again: Jeb Bush is unelectable. Nominating him will be an exercise in futility--just as it was with Mitt Romney, John McCain and Bob Dole. All three were moderates who wound up losers, and Jeb Bush will be a loser, too."

How do the polls look?--I write this the day after Bush fell out of the national top two for the first time this election cycle. We now have #11 Donald Trump at 19.8, #2 Scott Walker at 13.6, and then Bush at 12.6. (Then a big drop to #3 Marco Rubio at 7.2 followed by #8 Ben Carson, #12 Mike Huckabee, and #5 Rand Paul between 6.4 and 6.0.) In Iowa, he's also in third place at 9.8 to Walker's 19.3 and Trump's 11.8. In New Hampshire, things look a bit better. Trump is still surging in first at 16.8, but Bush stands in second at 14.0 with the pack well back (Walker at 8.8 then a handful between 6.0 and 4.5). In South Carolina, he's out in front at 13.7, barely edging Walker at 13.3.  Trump is well back, but that's because the last South Carolina poll was on June 8.

PPFA analysis--What to make of his lightning rod of a name and tumultuous polling? I should start by warning everyone who might lump Governor Bush with President Bush to stop doing that. They're different men with different approaches to politics. The younger brother should be judged on his own merits, and by many accounts, he has plenty. There's very little in his history to be embarrassed about. He's much stronger on camera than President Bush was. He comes across much more intelligent and empathetic on his feet. He genuinely seems to want to bring up education standards and help children, as evidenced by his many civic and charitable activities. He was also a competent, accomplished, and popular governor.

But here at PPFA, all that "policy stuff" only matters insofar as it affects politics. If you're a liberal, you might be shocked to learn that the Bush name is far from anathema to the Republican Party. In fact, I noted this fact during my entry on #6 John Kasich
"If Jeb Bush is going down in the general election, his name will surely be a factor. If he's going down in the primary, however, his name will actually be more of a help. A CNN/ORC poll from two months ago has George W. Bush's approval rating among Republicans at 88 percent and among conservatives at 73 percent. So, in the Republican Primary, the Bush name actually isn't an awkward drag on Jeb. It's an unfurled sail."
So don't think his name is an inherent disadvantage when trying to win the Republican nomination.  (Still, to be fair, the name could hurt insofar as Republicans fearing what it could mean in the general.)

As for polling, I am bending no limbs by saying that A) The Trump surge will eventually fade, and B) It's far too early to dismiss Bush as the front-runner due to current polling. As for "A," there are so many megabytes out there dedicated to why Trump won't last that I don't need to rehash them here.  If you'd like, you can go back and read my Candidate Profile on him. I haven't backed off from it too much.

As for B, the polls will eventually be blasted by the Bush Bazooka of fundraising and endorsements. My go-to site for fundraising statistics is still this page from the New York Times. I encourage its perusal. If, however, you would just rather be beat over the head with a bar graph, brace for impact:


To put that tower into perspective (I again refer to the NY Times fundraising catalog):
  • His Super-PAC raised about $103 million. You'd need to combine the next four highest numbers--Cruz ($38 million), Rubio (31.9), Walker (26), and Perry (16.8)--to eclipse it.
  • In the same quarter in 2011, Mitt Romney's Super-PAC raised $12 million, or under 12 percent(!) of what Jeb Bush has done.
  • His total fundraising of about $115 million requires that we combine the bottom thirteen Republican fundraisers to reach $1 million more. That's in a sixteen candidate field.
  • His $108 million in total outside money is already more than Mitt Romney's entire 2008 campaign.
  • Even Hillary Clinton--she of the Clinton Machine, if you hadn't heard--is a distant second place despite far outpacing all fellow Democrats.
Now, since one of his toughest opponents, Scott Walker, declared after the FEC filing deadline for last quarter, we don't have specific numbers from him. Still, it'll be next to impossible for him to make up ground. Consider:
A) Just how anomalously dominant Bush's fundraising has been. It's more likely that Walker will raise funds like Rubio, Cruz, Perry, Paul and Carson than Bush;
B) The most generous Republican state, Texas, has been mostly claimed my major rivals, including Bush, Rubio, #5 Rand Paul, and Texas sons #7 Ted Cruz and #9 Rick Perry; and
C) Bush is overwhelmingly the favorite of CEOs, and there's a rumor going around that they have a lot of money.

The confluence of these factors makes it extremely unlikely that Walker or any other Republican will ever mount a serious financial charge against Bush. (Exception: Trump, the only one who could self-finance at eight figures.)

What of it, then? Well, it probably doesn't qualify as breaking news that money is power in politics. Just as important as money helping to win votes, it also funds attack adds which suppress votes for a campaign's opponents. This Washington Post article from 2011 discusses Romney's fundraising dominance and its relevance: "History suggests that presidential nominations are ultimately won by organization, media exposure and lots of face time with voters--all of which cost plenty of money." The money came in handy during Romney's quasi-struggle last time around. He always seemed to hover around 25 percent support as other candidates took turns briefly surging to a lead before his campaign unleashed their considerable funds against said new leader. This strategy was sometimes called "whack-a-mole" as Bachmann, Cain, Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum each had their day in the son before Romney's dollars pounded them back to the pack.

I expect the same thing to happen this time around. Bush is not the favorite of conservatives, and they'll rally around Walker, Cruz, Paul, and maybe Carson at certain times, but none will be able to outlast Bush. He doesn't have to be the favorite of conservatives to win the Republican nomination. Remember in my last entry when I shared the Huffington Post/YouGov survey of conservative activists who supported Walker in huge numbers? One of its findings was that their opinions of Bush were similar to their opinions of Romney. It's meant to be a criticism, but we can't forget that Romney was nevertheless the runaway nominee.

Another major predictor of primary success is endorsements from the party. Luckily, FiveThirtyEight, as always, has us covered. They explain the strong correlation between early endorsements and the eventual nominee (though they acknowledge the prominent exception of Clinton v. Obama in 2008). Earning these early, crucial "votes" is called the "Invisible Primary." FiveThirtyEight is also actively keeping track of endorsements from elected officials throughout the country. (I recommend bookmarking that page right next to PPFA.)

(Click to enlarge)

So far, it's actually #4 Chris Christie leading their arbitrary scoring system, which awards ten points for endorsements from governors, five points from Senators, and a point for House members. Since Christie has been the only candidate to bag two of these valuable governors, he only needed five House members (four from New Jersey) to get him to his league leading 25 points. (Only one other candidate, Mike Huckabee, has a governor.... That's all he has.) But it's Jeb Bush who, just like with his fundraising, is blowing away the field in total endorsements. He already has 17 elected officials at his side, nearly twice as many as second place Rand Paul's 9. His biggest rivals according to the odds, pundits, and this site--Scott Walker and Marco Rubio--have an adorable 2 and 1, respectively.

Between the money and support from the Republican establishment, Jeb Bush can be expected to reassert himself in the polls and, even if he doesn't win two of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, slowly let the field run out of oxygen before his massive reserves help him begin to pull away on Super Tuesday.

PPFA nomination rank--1 of 16 (Odds: 2:1). He's the favorite, but not a huge one. I had Romney at about 3:5 for the duration of 2011. (And to see a real favorite, wait until you see where I have Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.) His 2:1 status means that if we held this election 1000 times, Bush would notch 333ish victories. That's a healthy plurality but, to put it another way, he'd lose two-thirds of the time. It's an exciting situation, and we can't take a brokered convention off the table (a possibility I'll definitely address at a later time).

PPFA general election rank--6 of 16. It's not that bad of a ranking. His strength with Latinos and his stewardship of the big electoral prize can make a better run than Romney did in 2012. The ten candidates below him on this ranking alienate a lot more people than his name does. Still, I just can't shake the burden of a tired dynasty in a general election. If the GOP nominates someone else, it will be Hillary Clinton shouldering that burden all by herself. But a Bush nomination nullifies that problem, and the Republicans would then break even on that issue. Breaking even is not good because, as it stands, the Democrats have the electoral advantage. (We'll be getting much more into that over the next year.) Therefore, the Republicans must find a way to make the campaign about looking forward. Nominating a Bush is not the way to do that.

1 comment:

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