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2016 Republican Presidential Update: A New, Familiar Name at the Top: Jeb Bush Leads the Pack.
Sabato's Crystal Ball: U.Va. Center for Politics ^ | 03/20/2013 | Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik,

Posted on 03/20/2014 7:22:44 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

In our first ranking of the very large and very unsettled 2016 Republican presidential field back in April of last year, we decided to not even include the name of one of the brightest stars in the GOP universe: Jeb Bush. We just didn’t think, at the time, that the former Florida governor and brother and son of presidents was all that interested in running.

But during 2013 and into this new year, we’ve gotten the sense, like many others, that things might be changing. So much so that we now consider Bush the leader of the field if he decides to run.


There are several reasons, and one of the most important does not have much to do with Bush, at least on the surface: Chris Christie’s bridge scandal.

To understand the potential importance of l’affaire bridge in determining whether Jeb Bush might run for president, we need to look back at the 2012 presidential cycle.

In the late summer of 2011, the Bush family surveyed the seemingly finalized Republican presidential primary field and apparently didn’t like what they saw. As reported by Dan Balz in Collision 2012 and Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in Double Down, Chris Christie received a phone call from former President George W. Bush in August 2011. Bush and Christie talked for 45 minutes about the pluses and minuses of running for president. Shortly thereafter, Christie’s wife, Mary Pat, got a call from former First Lady Barbara Bush, who described the benefits of raising a family in the White House. Christie also sat down with Bush consigliere Karl Rove and consulted with other Republican heavyweights, some close to the Bushes and some not.

Christie, who at the time was in the middle of just his second year as New Jersey’s governor, eventually decided to pass on the race.

While many have observed that Christie’s recent troubles have created an opening for Jeb Bush, there’s another connection to be made: With Christie damaged, the Bush family might have lost its preferred 2016 candidate, leaving a void that only a Bush can fill. Enter Jeb, who apparently shares — or at least shared — his family’s affection for Christie (“I love the guy,” Bush said of Christie in March 2013).

In mid-November, as Christie was basking in his 60% reelection victory, Politico’s Ben White reported on Jeb Bush’s not-quite 50/50 chances of running, citing several Wall Street and Washington sources. One factor in Bush’s decision-making was Christie, whose star at that precise moment could not have shined brighter. Essentially, if Christie was obviously putting together a strong campaign, that would probably keep Bush out; but if he wasn’t, that could induce Bush to enter.

Of course, we know what happened in the months that followed: Christie took a major hit as the bridge-closing story exploded. Christie’s problems have only elevated Bush by comparison, and the two men would occupy similar space in a hypothetical primary contest: The same voters and states that backed the successful nominations of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 — i.e. the ones with smaller concentrations of “very conservative” and white evangelical voters like New Hampshire, Florida and many Midwestern states — would probably be inclined to back one of these two or someone like them.

For all the sturm und drang regarding the Tea Party in the Republican nominating process, it’s going to be hard for someone who lacks widespread establishment support — like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) or Ted Cruz (R-TX) — to win the nomination. Political science research indicates that endorsements from sitting officeholders and party leaders can be quite predictive of presidential nominees.

And that leads us to another reason to take a potential Bush candidacy seriously: The establishment loves him.

In recent months, we’ve noticed an unmistakable and widespread desire among some of the Republicans we talk to, particularly ones who would be classified as members of the establishment on and off Capitol Hill, for a third Bush nominee in less than three decades. In one conversation, we mentioned several other potential candidates on our list, but the chatter kept coming back to Jeb. He was the only candidate with whom these party leaders appeared to be comfortable.

A preference for a Bush candidacy is inspired, we think, by a natural conservatism among political party leaders in searching for presidential candidates. The parties want someone who is a proven commodity capable of running a strong campaign and raising a Fort Knox of gold without much hand-holding. It’s a preference for the safest choice, and it’s got nothing to do with a political belief system. The desire amongst the vast majority of Democratic leaders for Hillary Clinton to run in 2016 stems from the same kind of “conservative” impulse. Compared to riskier nominees, Clinton, like Bush, would be an anodyne choice. This is the kind of establishment impulse that drives activists, particularly conservative ones, batty. But it’s also a decent strategy for actually winning elections — the “no surprises” approach.

The implications of a Bush candidacy would be wide-reaching, and — to be clear — we don’t know if he’s running. He probably doesn’t know himself. The reason we’re putting him first now is that if he were to run, we’d see him as a modest favorite over the other potential candidates in the field, and he might be the one Republican whose entry could keep other candidates out. For instance, Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) are close, and many observers doubt that they would run against one another in a presidential contest. (Bush’s son, George P., just appeared at two Palm Beach fundraisers for Rubio; the younger Bush is running for land commissioner, a statewide elected office in Texas.) That said, stranger things have happened in politics than a hypothetical Bush vs. Rubio matchup in a GOP primary field: Political alliances are often written in pencil, not pen.

Perhaps Christie will recover to the point where he is again seen as a viable contender, in which case Bush could take a pass and back him or someone else (like Rubio). Granted, that seems preposterous given how damaged Christie is now. Yes, Christie retains the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, but he rarely appears in public in that role these days. For instance, he ducked the national press at the recent National Governors Association conference in Washington, and earlier this week the RGA sent out a statement praising vulnerable Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) economic record not from Christie, but from Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV). Presidential candidates usually aren’t nominated if they reside in the isolation ward.

Christie benefits from Americans’ very short attention spans and his own political talent, which is considerable and probably superior to anyone else mentioned as a candidate. But he might be cooked nationally, anyway — it’s just not obvious to us one way or the other at this point. In a way, Bush’s machinations going forward might be as much of an indication of how national Republicans view Christie’s viability as anything else.

Perhaps another weathervane is Bush’s mother, Barbara, who recently softened her stance against the idea of another Bush presidency after saying last year that the country has “had enough Bushes.”

Aside from moving Jeb Bush to the top of our list, we left the rest of the list mostly the same. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) remains, to us, an intriguing option for Republicans, although he has a liability we have heretofore not mentioned: Walker never finished college, although it’s worth noting that only 47% of Americans who voted in 2012 were college graduates, according to the exit poll. Walker has a useful comeback, of course: The last president not to have a college degree was Harry Truman, and he’s ranked “near great” by most historians. Okay, we can already hear Democrats chanting, “We knew Harry Truman, he was a friend of ours, and Scott Walker, you’re no Harry Truman!”

Finally, a recent e-mail dump in an investigation of Walker’s associates for campaign shenanigans didn’t really contain any major red flags as far as we could tell. It also goes without saying that Walker needs to win reelection this November to be a presidential contender.

Table 1 shows our updated presidential ratings:

Table 1: Crystal Ball ratings of 2016 Republican presidential contenders

First Tier
Candidate Key Advantages Key Disadvantages Since Last Update
Jeb Bush
Ex-Governor, FL
•Strong gubernatorial resume
•Hispanic connections
•Key swing state
•National Bush money and organization
•Wrong last name (Bush dynasty) — although Clinton dynasty could neutralize this
•George W. Bush’s record?
•Does he actually want to run?
Scott Walker
Governor, WI
•Midwest GOP gov. in Obama state
•Heroic conservative credentials
•Shown political durability
•Too bland? Next Pawlenty?
•Do lingering scandals hurt him?
•No college degree
Rand Paul
Senator, KY
•Tea Party favorite
•Strong support from libertarian GOP wing
•National ID and fundraising network
•Too dovish/eclectic for GOP tastes?
•Association with out-of-mainstream father
•Plagiarism questions
Chris Christie Governor, NJ •Dynamic speaker
•Shown ability to pursue mainly conservative agenda in Blue state
•Could bridge criticism by media rally the right?
•Bridge scandal still playing out
•Bullying and out-of-control-staff questions
•Not conservative enough for base?
Second Tier
Marco Rubio
Senator, FL
•Dynamic speaker and politician
•From most electorally valuable swing state
•Future tough votes in Senate; has and will have federal record
•Did his national star peak too soon?
•Could he really deliver more Hispanic votes?
Ted Cruz
Senator, TX
•Tea Party favorite with voting record to match
•Texas and small dollar fundraising
•Dynamic speaker
•Anti-establishment nature plays well with base
•Tea Party favorite
•Too extreme? One word: Shutdown.
•Disliked on both sides of the Senate aisle
John Kasich
Governor, OH
•Swing state
•Long conservative record
•Could be fallback for GOP establishment forces
•Supported Medicaid expansion
•Makes verbal miscues, lots of video from time as Fox host
•Abrasive personality
Wild Cards?
Paul Ryan
Representative, WI
•2012 VP candidate — next in line?
•General election experience
•Strong conservative record
•May not want to run, possibly positioning self for future in House
•Not a dynamic campaigner
Mike Huckabee
Ex-Governor, AR
•Extensive governing experience
•Already vetted
•Blue collar appeal
•Strong support from social conservatives
•Southerner in Southern-centered party
•Too narrow appeal within party?
•Disliked by economic conservatives
•Small fundraising base
Rob Portman
Senator, OH
•Very well qualified; vast government experience
•From key swing state
•Supports same-sex marriage
•More insider than leading man
•Crowded out by fellow Ohioan Kasich?
•Supports same-sex marriage
Susana Martinez
Governor, NM
•Diversity in party sorely in need of it
• Electoral success in Blue state
• Compelling life story/record
•Pro-Medicaid expansion
•Unvetted nationally
•Frequently disavows interest in running
Rick Santorum
Ex-Senator, PA
•Strong support from social conservatives
•2nd place finisher in ‘12 — next in line?
•Been around primary track
•Harder to stand out in stronger 2016 field
•Lost last Senate race by 17%
•Chip-on-shoulder attitude
Rick Perry
Governor, TX
•Showing clear improvement as a candidate — “second chance” mentality
•Strong conservative credentials
•Texas fundraising
•Extensive executive experience
•Ran very poor 2012 race
•More “Texas” in a nation that is not as conservative as the Lone Star State
•“Oops,” we forgot the rest

After moving Bush from our wild card column all the way up to No. 1, we are adding a couple names to the wild card portion: Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-NM). Both would bring a bit of diversity to the field: Portman through a notable issue position (he supports gay marriage while otherwise being a stalwart conservative) and Martinez through her background (in addition to being Hispanic, she’s the only woman on the list and also, depending on how one classifies Texas, the only westerner). One of us spelled out Portman’s potential in a recent column for Politico Magazine. Ultimately, we think Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) is the likelier Ohioan in the field (assuming he wins reelection), and Martinez is probably more of a vice presidential contender at this point. But both merit mention on an ever-growing list of possibilities.

We fully admit that we may be underestimating our “Also Rans.” Rick Santorum’s blunt, social conservative substance and style has undying appeal to Republicans who would rather be right than be president. “Compromise, hell no!” is their slogan. And Rick Perry is bouncing back as a much better candidate, at least in his early outings, than he appeared to be in his disastrous 2012 incarnation. Observers should never underestimate the fierce conservatism of much of the Republican base. Yet we think most of the GOP, after its 2008 and 2012 drubbings, is determined not to make a mistake in picking its 2016 candidate; the party is looking for a nominee who can actually get to 270 electoral votes in November, and not just in their pre-election imaginings.

Reality check: There are 963 days to the 2016 presidential election. So there will be plenty of time to read the tea leaves, and the Republican field remains highly fluid. We’ve moved up Jeb Bush, but this is in no way, shape or form a firm prediction he’ll be the nominee. Rather, we just wanted to reflect what we’ve been hearing in the early stages of 2016’s “invisible primary.” If anything, the elevation of Bush — who very well may not even run — is just another indication that while Republicans should have a decent chance to win the White House in 2016, they will probably have to sort themselves out in a rather dramatic primary first — not to mention use good judgment and accept some painful realities about the changing American electorate.

We have no updates at this time to our rankings of the 2016 Democratic contenders — the field remains contingent on Hillary Clinton’s decision — but for an assessment of the prospects of Vice President Joe Biden (D) and a broader look at the vice presidency as a presidential stepping stone, please take a look at Joel Goldstein’s piece in today’s Crystal Ball.

TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: 2016; 2016gopprimary; bush2016; florida; jebbush; jebbush2016; potus; republicans; sabato
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1 posted on 03/20/2014 7:22:44 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

If Obama runs as a Republican, can he have a third term?

2 posted on 03/20/2014 7:24:07 PM PDT by madprof98
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To: SeekAndFind

The NJ fat boi is done. Bushies are done. Sabato is whistling past the graveyard.

3 posted on 03/20/2014 7:25:03 PM PDT by VRWC For Truth (Roberts has perverted the Constitution)
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To: SeekAndFind

He has to be kidding.

4 posted on 03/20/2014 7:25:40 PM PDT by CaptainK (...please make it stop. Shake a can of pennies at it.)
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To: VRWC For Truth

I wouldn’t count Jeb out quite yet. Not that I like him any more than you do, but we’re not the deciders, the GOP elitists are, and they control the money and influence.

5 posted on 03/20/2014 7:27:08 PM PDT by bigbob (The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. Abraham Lincoln)
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To: SeekAndFind
we now consider Bush the leader of the field if he decides to run.


Because our side also has its share of low-information voters.

6 posted on 03/20/2014 7:27:11 PM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: SeekAndFind; SoCal Pubbie; onyx
Ted Cruz: Too extreme? One word: Shutdown.

Like Hell!

Seeing what a disaster Deathcare has become we should be thanking him!

Ted Cruz: Disliked on both sides of the Senate aisle

That is a Net Positive, not Negative!

7 posted on 03/20/2014 7:27:24 PM PDT by KC_Lion (Build the America you want to live in at your address, and keep looking up.- Sarah Palin)
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To: SeekAndFind


8 posted on 03/20/2014 7:28:23 PM PDT by Jim Robinson (Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God!!)
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To: SeekAndFind

This is all the author’s wishful thinking. Recent polls have Jeb “el Heffe” Bush near the bottom.

9 posted on 03/20/2014 7:30:00 PM PDT by Ray76 (Profit from the mistakes of others, you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself.)
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To: SeekAndFind; ohioWfan; GOPsterinMA; Clintonfatigued; Impy; Perdogg; fieldmarshaldj; KC_Lion; ...

Great a idea, a third Bush is a charm.

Plus they don’t need orientation and a tour to move back in the WH saving our $$$.

“Miss Bush yet?” OWF does.

10 posted on 03/20/2014 7:32:01 PM PDT by sickoflibs (Obama : 'You can keep your doctor if you want. I never tell a lie ')
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To: VRWC For Truth
Sabato is whistling past the graveyard.

You have to always remember that this guy is your standard-issue liberal and nothing he says can be taken seriously. For a real nobody he sure knows how to get press, though.

11 posted on 03/20/2014 7:32:27 PM PDT by OldPossum ("It's" is the contraction of "it" and "is"; think about ITS implications.)
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To: SeekAndFind


12 posted on 03/20/2014 7:33:38 PM PDT by Vendome (Don't take life so seriously-you won't live through it anyway-Enjoy Yourself ala Louis Prima)
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To: SeekAndFind

At least the Blimp is fading fast.

13 posted on 03/20/2014 7:33:49 PM PDT by Huskrrrr
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To: SeekAndFind

Sabato has a screw loose

14 posted on 03/20/2014 7:34:01 PM PDT by Rome2000
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To: SeekAndFind

Stay out da Bushes.

15 posted on 03/20/2014 7:35:10 PM PDT by fieldmarshaldj (Resist We Much)
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To: SeekAndFind

So the establishment loves him. Good reason not to vote for him, even if his last name was not Bush.

No Bush is going to win the White House in 2016, people still remember the Iraq War and the financial crisis happened on the last Bush’s watch.

And the Bush before him got thrown out after lying on taxes and a mediocre presidency.

Exactly what have the Bushes done to deserve a third President in the White House?

16 posted on 03/20/2014 7:35:30 PM PDT by Corporate Democrat
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To: Jim Robinson

I sure wish more folks would have expressed that same sentiment in the fall of 1999 through March of 2000.

I’d like to second that emotion... all in favor signify by posting an aye on thisl thread...

17 posted on 03/20/2014 7:36:06 PM PDT by DoughtyOne (Immigration Reform is job NONE. It isn't even the leading issue with Hipanics. Enforce our laws.)
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To: SeekAndFind

NO WAY will I ever vote for Jeb Bush.

18 posted on 03/20/2014 7:36:30 PM PDT by EternalHope (Something wicked this way comes. Be ready.)
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To: SeekAndFind

This list is a joke. He identifies differnet negatives than any freeper would

19 posted on 03/20/2014 7:40:02 PM PDT by BRL
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To: bigbob
but we’re not the deciders, the GOP elitists are,

If the GOPe forces Jeb or someone like Christie, THE GOP is cooked/finished. They can commit suicide if they like, it is up to them.

This is an "academic" source.

20 posted on 03/20/2014 7:40:15 PM PDT by Texas Fossil (Texas is not where you were born, but a Free State of Heart, Mind & Attitude!)
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