[Updated Feb. 3, 2014] In a way, Jeb Bush is the Hillary Rodham Clinton of the Republican Party: If he decides to run for president, he could discourage others from getting in – including fellow Floridian Marco Rubio.
As a successful two-term governor of the Sunshine State, Mr. Bush is a respected conservative with an intellectual streak and has the deep political and fundraising connections that come from being a Bush. But his family name cuts two ways. While his father’s presidency is now remembered with fondness, his brother’s is not. And it may be that the nation still won’t be ready to consider another Bush presidential campaign by 2016.
But Bush is not ruling out a campaign and, in fact, seems open to the idea.
“I’m deferring the decision to the right time, which is later this year, and the decision will be based on, can I do it joyfully, because I think we need to have candidates lift our spirits,” Bush said Jan. 29 in a TV interview while visiting a charter school in Hialeah, Fla. “It’s a pretty pessimistic country right now; and, is it right for my family? So I don’t even want to think about that till it’s the right time and that’s later on.”
Bush also chided his mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, for saying last year that “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House.
“She promised me she wouldn’t keep saying this,” Bush said. “But she is 89 years old and if you have elderly parents or grandparents, you know they speak their mind. There is not much stopping between thinking and speaking. I love her.”
Some of Bush’s policy positions could prove challenging among conservative primary voters, even if they are assets in the general election. Chief among them is his support for comprehensive immigration reform. His immigration stance, plus his fluency in Spanish and his Mexican-born wife, gives him entré into the Latino community, the large and fast-growing voting bloc that went overwhelmingly for Obama in November 2012. More appealing to conservatives may be Bush’s advocacy, through his education think tank, for school choice and tougher testing standards.
As a governor, Bush may be best remembered for his effective emergency management during the hurricanes of 2004 and '05. A negative memory that could come back if Bush runs is the march on Tallahassee by tens of thousands of protesters in 2000, sparked by his “One Florida” initiative to do away with affirmative action in admissions to state universities.
Ultimately, there’s a strong possibility Bush won’t run, because of his family. One of his sons, George P. Bush, is launching his own political career in Texas, but other immediate family members may be less enamored of the intense scrutiny that comes with a national political run.