Steven Calabresi writes:
Republicans everywhere should take a close look at Jeb Bush as a presidential candidate in 2012. Jeb is tough on foreign policy and is a solid conservative, but he is a small government conservative who wants to cut taxes and spending. Jeb’s signature domestic policy issue is choice in education – an issue that social and economic conservatives care about passionately. He is fluent in Spanish, is married to an Hispanic-American, and could reach out to the socially conservative up-for-grabs Hispanic swing vote. Jeb was Governor of Florida for eight years and did a splendid job in every way. He is experienced and tough, and he knows the issues. Jeb is also articulate and persuasive. Republicans have a number of good presidential prospects to consider, but Jeb Bush deserves particular attention.
Calabresi is right — but there are, of course, some questions about a Jeb run in 2012. First, it’s not at all clear that he’s interested. He’s not doing the sorts of things — appearances at GOP events, spending PAC money on gratitude-inducing endorsements, etc. — which the other interested contenders do. It doesn’t mean those activities two years before the primaries are necessary to a successful candidacy; it simply indicates a lack of fire-in-the-belly interest at this point. Second, his immigration stance is problematic but not fatal. John McCain survived the anti immigration reform phalanx to win the GOP race in 2008, so it’s been done before. But it would be a sore point with many in the conservative base. Third is the name. George W. Bush is looking darn good in retrospect, but it’s not clear the party or the country are ready for a third Bush. In some sense, it’s silly to knock him out because of his familial relationships, but anti-dynasty sentiment is real. And in a “move forward, not-the-same-old-Republicans” year, a candidate whose name rekindles the dog-days of the GOP may have a steep hill to climb.
Do any of these factors remove Jeb from consideration? Only the first — one can’t force unwilling candidates to run. But if we learned anything in 2008, it was that a pro-immigration reformer whose face is not fresh can, in the right primary setting, out-muscle better organized and funded candidates. There will be — because there always are — the unexpected and the unlikely candidates in 2012. So don’t count out anyone yet and certainly not an ex-governor as successful as Jeb in selling bread-and-butter conservative ideas to a diverse electorate.