It’s time for Republicans to stop whining and start looking to the future for redemption. The 2016 presidential election is only four years away, and the candidates are already revving up to make the case that they should be president.
The GOP politicians in play at this time include: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-Utah), and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.).
Rubio, Christie, and Ryan will be busy during the next four years with their day jobs, but they also must contend with reelection campaigns. Huntsman and Bush can dedicate all of their time to building their brands and raising campaign funds.
Rubio’s avid support did not help Mitt Romney, who lost Florida and received very few Hispanicvotes. What else could possibly go wrong? Christie’s over-the-top bromance with President Obama just days before the election and after Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey will be a blemish on his record, and candidacy, for the foreseeable future. Moreover, Christie has a herculean task in front of him as he repairs the hurricane damage in his state. Ryan was Romney’s co-loser, albeit as a vice presidential candidate. The congressman can build his status in the coming days, weeks, and months leading up to the fiscal cliff and beyond if he performs well and makes a significant impact on the negotiations. Presumably, Ryan will be the GOP mouthpiece and principal respondent to Obama’s fiscal proposals.
In any case, Jeb Bush is my candidate for 2016. Of course, I reserve the right to flip-flop if another man or woman strikes my fantasy, or if Bush declines to compete. You may ask yourself, can Bush overcome the baggage of his name? It’s already been more than four years since George W. left office, and so the former president’s issues are now the current president’s issues. At some point, perhaps, Obama will stop blaming every one of his missteps on the former president. By the way, as Byron York writes, “In the last three decades since 1984, the only Republicans to be elected president have been named Bush.”
Bush brings a lot of very important considerations to the table, not the least of which is that he continues to be very popular in Florida, which is an important battleground state that the GOP lost in 2012. Also important is that he could forge together a constituency that includes moderates and conservative Republicans as well as independents. Bush is pro-life. But, he has been an outspoken leader for immigration reform and creating a path “to citizenship for people already in the country illegally but otherwise law-abiding.” Incidentally, Bush’s wife is Mexican and was born in that country, and Bush speaks Spanish fluently. Given the 71-39 edge for Obama with Hispanics in 2012, Bush could make great advances for the GOP with the group.
His other preferences include school vouchers and stricter educational performance standards, which pit him against teachers’ unions. On the other hand, Bush has eschewed Grover Norquist’s inane tax pledge.
One of Bush’s principal interests is education. He serves as a co-chair of the “Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.” During his tenure as governor, Bush ended affirmative action at the Florida state universities.
To be a successful candidate and bring back the beaten GOP, Bush would have to redefine Republican dogma. Conservatism will continue to be an important element, but the party must become more empathetic to the diverse voting blocs in the country. Specifically, Jeb must reignite George W.’s concept of “compassionate conservatism.” Undoubtedly, Hispanics will be receptive to Bush’s candidacy and appreciate his sensitivity to their needs. But Bush will have to work hard to attract more women, young people, and even African Americans, while simultaneously building a strong relationship with the base of his party, especially during the primaries.
Jeb Bush has a lot of time to consider a run for the presidency and map out a philosophy that will be appealing to the majority of voters. It will be an exciting voyage that could very well end in a showdown with Hillary Clinton. Bush versus Clinton, how exciting.