Jeb Bush: Unelectable?
Last week, Brent Bozell’s ForAmerica, a conservative group with more than 7 million followers, declared Jeb Bush “unelectable.” With a video that showed Bush heaping praise upon Hillary Clinton at a 2013 awards ceremony, the group claimed that the former Florida governor ruined his credibility that night. By presenting Clinton with a lifetime achievement award, he dulled much of the criticism he would be able to launch against her in a national campaign.
Bozell wasn’t the only conservative that came out last week to pose serious questions about Bush’s viability. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, a man many suspect will run against him, told Breitbart that Bush was too moderate to energize the Republican base. “I think that is the biggest obstacle he has to overcome, is that being a moderate in a conservative party is difficult. When you refer to conservatives in the third person, as he did recently, that makes it even more difficult I think to connect with conservatives.”
The Voters vs. The Donors
While it could be argued that Bozell is speaking to a relatively minor wing of the Republican party and that Paul has ulterior motives for throwing Bush under the bus, there’s no doubt that important issues are being raised. The thing about the awards ceremony is fluff, but Paul’s concerns about Bush’s moderate conservatism is not. It is exactly the type of middle-of-the-road conservatism that attracts big donors, while leaving many to question whether they should bother to line up on election day. If it comes down to a centrist Democrat and a centrist Republican, how inspired are conservatives going to be?
There is also the question of Bush’s stance on the issues conservatives have slammed the hardest during Obama’s presidency. He has supported Common Core since its inception, a fact that will make him a hard sell with those who want to get the federal government out of education. And though he doesn’t exactly support Obamacare or amnesty for illegals, he is soft on both. For hardliners who want to repeal the ACA and focus on deportations, he is an uninspiring choice to say the least.
The fear is that we get a repeat of 2008 and 2012. Neither John McCain nor Mitt Romney were able to get the conservative base to come out in force, and Barack Obama was a bigger threat to the country than Hillary Clinton. Clinton is the Democratic Party as most Americans are used to it. Obama was a new beast entirely, and his policies have pushed us so far to the left that it may now be impossible for a true conservative to win in 2016. Just look at how the media portrays Ted Cruz as compared to how they present Elizabeth Warren. Warren is to the left of Obama, and yet she is treated like an everyman. Cruz is far right, to be sure, but he is treated like a clown. Some of that is just the typical liberal media, but a lot of it has to do with how far we are off-center.
Therein lies the big choice. Do we rally behind a moderate Republican like Bush, risking the same defeats we’ve suffered two elections in a row? Or do we rally around a Cruz, hoping that we can somehow pull a miracle out of thin air?
It’s a question Republicans will have to ponder carefully in the next year and a half. My thoughts? Go big or go home.