Jeb Bush: upsides and downsides for a 2016 presidential run

Jeb Bush hasn’t been actively in the middle of the Washington political game for a decade, and politics has changed rapidly since then. He's not an ideologue or a populist – and that's good. 

Susan Walsh/AP/File
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) gives the keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington in this Nov. 20, 2014, file photo. On Tuesday, Bush took his most definitive step yet toward running for president, announcing plans to 'actively explore' a campaign and form a new political operation allowing him to raise money for like-minded Republicans.

There are plenty of upsides to Jeb Bush running for president. There are also some downsides.

The former Florida governor is plenty conservative, or at least he was plenty conservative back in the day.

The Republican Party has become more conservative, just as the Democratic Party has become more liberal, since he left office.

Part of that is the reaction to the financial crisis, part of it is a reaction to the Iraq War, part of that is a reaction to redistricting, and part of it is just the normal progression of the political parties.

Jeb Bush hasn't been actively in the middle of the Washington political game for a decade, and politics has changed rapidly since then.

Everything moves faster and blows over quicker.

There are a lot more citizen journalists and a lot fewer actual journalists. (The Feehery Theory is not journalism. It’s my theories on a lot of things, but mostly politics.)

Every story is constructed for clickability. Facts and a sense of perspective are mostly missing from the discourse.

For somebody like Jeb Bush, who actually cares about policy and who is not necessarily constructed for the sound-bite game, this new playing arena might be a bit overwhelming.

But Bush is an adult, and it sure would be nice to have some adult leadership in Washington again.

He is not one to fly off the handle. He won’t be one to delegate all the major decisions to his No. 2.

He has a clear vision about how he wants to fix the country.

He is conservative in temperament and in philosophy, but he is not an ideologue.

That makes the ideologues more than a bit nervous.

He has not backed away from Common Core. How could he, he is so invested in it?

Common Core is hated by the ideologues and not just the ideologues. It’s like Michelle Obama’s school lunch program. It might be good for you, but everybody hates it.

The problem with Common Core is the approach taken by the proponents. Instead of investing in a grass-roots, bottom-up demand for better schools, the folks who like Common Core invested in a grass tops, top-down strategy that deployed governors and CEOs to make the case that your kids aren’t smart enough.

Common Core was not an Obama program, but many in the conservative base just assumed that the president was behind it.

And like Michelle’s nutrition program, if the Obamas are behind it, it must be bad.

Common Core didn't have a chance with politicians and greedy rich people being the ones to sell it. It was against the zeitgeist of our populist moment.

On immigration, Jeb is again paired with Big Business in pushing policy changes that many right-wingers despise.

He is right, of course. We have to fix our broken immigration system. But don’t tell that to the demagogue who may be running against him in a Republican primary (I don’t have to name names, do I?).

And Bush being a Bush will be both a blessing and a curse.

It is nice to have a famous last name in politics. And Bush is perhaps the most political name out there, narrowly edging out the Clinton and the Kennedy names.

With that last name comes a huge fundraising network. That gives him a huge leg up in any primary process.

But the governor will have to forcefully carve out his identity as separate from his brother and father.

He has to run as his own man, not as part of a political dynasty.

His brother brings with him some real political baggage, as the Senate report on torture reminds us, not the least of which is Dick Cheney’s reemergence as the top spokesman for the Bush Administration.

W.’s ratings are not as bad as they were, but they aren't at the helpful stage quite yet.

And there is a big question as to whether the American public really wants the same old names doing the same old thing.

We live in a populist moment and there is perhaps nobody less populist than Jeb Bush.

And for that reason, I really like him.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at

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