NY-11: A Preview of the Special Election to Come

Michael GrimmMichael Grimm’s retirement is a relief for House GOP leadership.  But it is now a headache for Congress Greg Walden, Chairman of the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee).  Grimm defeated Democratic Congressman Michael McHahon in 2010, was reelected in 2012 and survived a bruising reelection in 2014 while facing felony charges.  But his recent decision to accept a plea deal pleading guilty to felony tax evasion charges sealed his fate.

Initially, GOP leadership kept quiet about whether Grimm should stay or go.  But soon after Christmas when leadership talked to Grimm he decided to step down.  This might be a victory for leadership in keeping their Caucus scandal free but it might make their caucus permanently smaller.

Holding the district is no sure thing for the GOP. Grimm’s district is the quintessential swing district.  It voted for McCain in 2008 while electing Democrat Michael McHahon, swung for Grimm in 2010 but supported Andrew Cuomo (D) in his gubernatorial bid and voted for Obama 51%-47% even as Grimm was winning reelection in 2012.  Most recently, even as Grimm was cruising to reelection this November the district agin supported Andrew Cuomo.

The district has a PVI of R+2 and geographically includes all of the GOP leaning Staten Island.  It also incorporates parts of southern Brooklyn.  Not surprisingly, it is the most conservative district in New York City and the only district in the city which leans towards the GOP. The district is diverse with a large number of Jewish, Irish American, Russian American and Italian Americans in Brooklyn and wealthy New Yorkers in Staten Island.  The district also includes many NYPD officers who will surely impact the race given recent events.

Democrats are optimistic they can retake this seat in a special election if they find the right candidate.  The party is courting former Congress Michael McHahon to run.  Mchahon, who represented much of the 11th district in its former designation (NY-13) would give the party a strong candidate with the ability to fundraise.  However, McHahon fails to connect to the party’s base of blue-collar whites located in Brooklyn.  Grimm exploited this in 2010.

Republicans don’t have a stand out candidate ready to run but they have time to find one.  According to NY State election law the Governor must call for a special election to occur no more than 80 days after the announced vacancy.  The party district committees pick their nominees, replacing a primary.

At this point it is unclear just show strong a position either party is in.  Democrats can be gleeful that Grimm is gone but they will have to spend time and money to take this conservative leaning seat in non-Presidential years.  Republicans will have to spend money to hold it.

Ultimately, the result of the special election will not greatly impact the partisan make-up of Congress.  Democrats currently control 188 seats to the GOP’s 247.  However, if Democrats did take the seat they would have at least 10 members who sit in districts with a Republican leaning PVI.  Oh and they would control a whole 189 seats to the GOP’s 246.

But perhaps I am focusing a bit too much on the national dynamic of the race.  The WP has a look at how local politics can impact the race.  Specifically, Mayor De Blasio and his rift with the city police.  To put it bluntly, this district does not like the mayor.  The mayor has a 58% disapproval rating while being in positive territory in the rest of the city. De Blasio could not even win Staten Island when he was winning the mayoral race with 73%.  If Democrats pick a candidate that is in any way linked to De Blasio this seat is almost impossible to take. Grimm relentlessly attacked his 2014 opponent for being linked to the Mayor and this was before the mayor charged headfirst into racial politics.

The Democratic bench is shallower than the GOP’s.  Short of the party’s disastrous 2014 candidate Domenic Recchia, nobody stands out though this is true on the GOP side as well.  Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who has taken De Blasio to task and the special prosecutor in the Eric Garner case, Daniel Donovon, stand out for the GOP.  Assemblyman Michael Cusick seems to the Democrats first choice if McHahon decides not to run.

More will follow on this race as it develops and the candidates, their strengths and weaknesses, and how much effort the parties are willing to put into this race, become clearer.




Bush vs. Clinton Round II: A Primer

o-JEB-BUSH-HILLARY-CLINTON-facebookThis post assumes that both Bush and Hillary make it out of their respective primaries.  The odds are good that if both decided to run Hillary would have the easier route to her party’s nomination.  Just look at the polls.  Democrats seem to want Hillary in the absence of better options while the GOP faithful are far from convinced a third Bush should run let alone be the party’s nominee.

However, if Bush did become the party’s nominee he could pose a serious threat to an “inevitable” Hillary White House.  The reasons are varied and not all have to do with Bush himself.  Some of the reasons are more demographic and ideological than anything else.  Others do relate to Bush.  Let’s start with the demographic and ideological reasons.

Nobody will argue the Democratic and Republican parties have moved further apart ideologically since Bill ran for the White House. Voters have demographically self-sorted into red/blue states and racial polarization has significantly increased.  The Clinton Coalition of the 90’s was surprisingly bipartisan and biracial.  In both his runs in 92 and 96 Clinton did not win whites outright but he garnered the largest share a Democrat had achieved since Carter in 76.  Not even Obama’s 2008 coalition could wrest this accolade away from Clinton.

Many of the state’s Clinton won in the South in 92 and 96 are off-limits to his wife.  Arkansas, Missouri, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Tennessee, all states Clinton took are goners for Hillary and would be shoe-ins for Bush.  Clinton managed to win Georgia in 92 and while demographics say Democrats can compete there in two years the state’s racially polarized voting patterns argue differently.  These states now compose the new base of the GOP’s electoral strength.  Even North Carolina, a state Clinton lost twice is arguably a 2020 state for Democrats to be able to win in again.These’s states voting patterns have shifted as the Democratic Party has moved left and white voters have left the party.

Bush would be the beneficiary but he would have to translate GOP wins among whites into winning traditionally blue leaning states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.  Unlike former GOP candidates Bush has little connection to New Hampshire and he would need a break or two to win Iowa.  Heck, his brother did not win both Iowa (2004) and New Hampshire (2000) in either of his election attempts.

Clinton enters the election benefitting from the demographic changes roiling the country.  Specifically, states such as Virginia, Nevada, Colorado have gone from red to blue in the electoral college in the Obama era because Obama’s campaign has finally mobilized such the powerful minority voting bloc.   Consider in 2012 Romney won 54% of whites in CO, 61% in VA and 56% of in NV and yet he lost all three states. In fact, demographic changes have also started to make Arizona competitive in Presidential elections and New Mexico a safe blue state since 2004.  Combined with the increasing proclivity of affluent, suburban whites to vote Democrat it has made these states purple.

Clinton’s strength in demographics leads into Bush’s strengths as a candidate.  The former Governor has the ability to appeal to minorities and Hispanics in a way only his brother could.  GW won 44% of the Hispanic vote and he did so by hailing from a Hispanic state like TX. He discussed the issues the community cared about.  Jeb also hails from a strongly Hispanic state and has familial connections to the community (at least the Cuban-American community) with a Hispanic wife and Hispanic son just elected to Land Commissioner in Texas.  Both of Bush’s elections in Florida can be touted for winning a majority of the Hispanic vote in each (even if his last race was a decade and a half ago).

If Clinton is a fundraising monster than Bush can be considered the GOP’s counterpart.  His connections to the GOP donor base run deep, cultivated during his time as Governor and through his family.  Unlike his primary competition, Bush would not need to get his name and credentials out into the donor world to see cash flow his way.  Much as Clinton can do Bush only need flick his fingers and the cash will start pouring in.

Yet, weaknesses remain for Bush, as well as for Clinton. Since 1984 the country has had 7 Presidential elections (8 with 2016). If Bush were to be the GOP nominee his family would be at the top of the ticket 5 out of 8 times.  A Clinton run would mean a Clinton would be on the ballot in some form for 4 out of 8 of those elections.  So much for dynastic politics.

Due to 2010 and 2014 the Democratic Party has few up and coming faces ready to handle the national spotlight.  The party’s best future hopes are heads of Cabinets and mayors of major cities but they have not won statewide office.  On the other hand many probable 2016 hopefuls for the GOP have fueled by 2010 and 2014 waves.  Cruz, Paul, and Rubio have done it once.  Christie, Pence, Walker and Kasich have done it twice and not in easy political environments.  Clinton offers her party the best option out of none.  Bush offers the party a policy wonkishness bordering on ingenious but the same last name as the party’s most cherish and tarnished political dynasty.

Bush will walk into a general election with many strengths.  But he will also have weaknesses he cannot change.  By far his greatest weakness will be his last name.  Unless he can find a way to appeal to Republican voters that McCain and Romney struggled with he may be done in by the fact the base stays home.  Bush would eat into the Democrats advantage among minorities but it would be all for naught if he cannot find a way to appeal to the party faithful.  McCain barely tried and lost.  Romney did his best and still lost.  Bush needs to find a way to thread the needle.  If he does another Bush could move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.



What Bush and Clinton Say about Dynastic Politics in the US

gwar01_081226bushIs America really ready for Bush vs. Clinton round II?  It is an interesting question and one I suspect few would honestly answer if asked today.  But even the possibility of a rematch between two of the most dominant political families in America says much about what America thinks of political dynasties.  It is the nation’s dirtiest political secret.  Voters profess to hate political dynasties.  Until they vote for them.

The history of political dynasties in America is long.  From America’s earliest political debates, certain names and families have held incredible sway.  Today, most Americans would easily recognize the Kennedy, Clinton and Bush name.  Of course these are not the only political dynasties in America.  They just have the largest national name identification.

Jay Cost over at the National Review has an excellent rundown of political dynasties dating to the nation’s founding.  From the 19th to early 20th century three state based dynasties were established by Virginia (Thomas Jefferson 1801-1809, James Madison 1809-1817, James Monroe 1817-1825), New York, and Ohio.  Between the Civil War era and Great Depression the GOP nominated seven Ohio politicians for President and Democrats New Yorkers seven times.

These dynasties are lone gone but modern dynasties had to start somewhere.  The Bush dynasty has been cultivated through business success in Massachusetts and electoral success in Florida and Texas.  The Clinton brand is newer and was cultivated in the largely defunct Southern Democratic brand.  The Kennedy’s, well they come from all over the map but also started in Massachusetts.

To find out how Americans truly feel about dynasties and one must look at the state dynasties.  Examples are plentiful.  Several stand out.  Particularly in the South. Just defeated Senator Mary Landrieu (D) won many of her races on her family’s political dominance.  Her father was the first white mayor of New Orleans and her brother, Mitch Landrieu, is the city’s current mayor.   Another just defeated Senator, Mark Pryor (D-AR), built his brand on his father’s, David Pryor, success tenures as Governor and Senator.  Gwen Grahman, (D-FL), recently elected to represent a conservative leaning Florida panhandle district, played on her dad’s tenure as Governor.  These men and women were continuously reelected though the changing partisan allegiance of the South finally outran the strength of their last names.

Indeed, short of Graham, the dynasty politics of America, at least at the state level, seemed to be increasingly tied to ideology and partisanship more than anything else.  Two cases out of Georgia illustrate just such a trend.  Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter’s nephew, Jason Carter, to run for Governor and Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn, for the state’s open Senate seat.  Despite playing up their conservative Democratic heritage at the end of the day they lost.  And they lost in a way that suggests voters acted more on partisanship than anything else.  If one were to compare the 2012 Presidential map of the state to its 2014 results they would be virtual mirrors of each other by county winner.

Still, while partisanship and ideology might be trumping state dynastic politics the same cannot be said at the national level.  Hillary Clinton is to the right of the her party yet she leads in every 2016 Democratic nomination poll by 30-50 points.  Democrats sure seem comfortable with the idea of another Clinton in the White House.  Republicans seem far more squishy with Jeb Bush holding a narrow lead to trailing in many polls.

So why is this the case?  After all, many Americans would profess to hate political dynasties.  Part of it lies in the murky world of campaign finance and political parties inclination to opt for candidates that appear able to handle a national campaign..  The other half goes to the very mindsets of American voters (particularly partisan ones).

Jeb Bush and Clinton have one advantage no other candidate can match.  A ready-made donor base waiting to write them million dollar checks.  They did not build these bases themselves.  Their families did.  Political dynasties help fuel their heirs campaigns and you can’t win something without something. This is true of every American dynasty down the line.  Thus, political parties are inclined to back these candidates even as the public sours on the rich, Wall-Street, etc.

The other part is that voters will put aside their concerns about political dynasties and ultimately vote on their partisan and ideological allegiances.  Yes, some voters do vote on the economy and the candidate but they are the few.

Let me illustrate this in a simple way.  Do you truly believe a conservative Republican who comes out to vote on election day will not support Bush and instead throw his/her to a Clinton that presided over Benghazi, believes in higher taxes, supports abortion and gay marriage, etc.?  If you do I think we have a problem.  Far more likely they support Bush.  The same goes for a Democrat who comes out to vote. This is made ever more likely with the increased use of micro targeting allowing political campaigns to tailor messages to different groups of voters.

Add it all up and you come to the conclusion Americans will say they dislike dynastic politics but if the dynastic candidate agrees with them on the issues they get the votes.  Thus, America does have strong political dynasties.  However, current dynasties appear to have been cultivated in specific circles such as partisanship and ideology.  Those that have not have gone the way of the Pryors. Nunns and Carters.The Bush’s, Clinton’s and Kennedy’s of the world understand this new dynamic.  It largely explains why their brands are still so strong (especially notable for the Bush’s) and why a Clinton and Bush could again square off for the White House despite America’s vocal distaste for dynastic politics.




NYC Cop Slayings Shows the Limits of the New Left

Bill-de-Blasio-candidatoNYC and America were rocked when two NYPD officers were “assassinated” last week.  The reasons for the killings by troubled Ismaaiyl Brinsley were a mix of mental instability and a response to the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Kevin Gardner in NYC.

It is hard to say what ultimately caused Brinsley to go after these particular NYPD officers.  But, what appears clear is that the conversation the “New Left” has fostered of late, has not helped defuse the situation.  But first, let me define what makes up the New Left.

The New Left is a combination of old school race baiting Democrats and the populist (ie. socialist) tendencies of the most progressive elements in the Democratic Party.  The race-baiters can best be seen in Al Sharpton, who not hours after the slayings, held a news conference saying he was scared and all whites were racist because a few people threatened him.  The more progressive elements can be seen in Elizabeth Warren’s railing against Wal-Street and Bill De Blasio’s all over the map statements; evils of Wal-Street, rich should pay more, etc.

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio deserves special attention though.  Elected on the heels of Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg’s successfull tough on crime stances (including lefty ideas like gun control),  De Blasio railed against police policies like “stop and frisk.”  In his 74% landslide election he dominated majority-minority NYC while losing many affluent white areas.  Today, the city appears more polarized than ever.

Thus, it should come as little surprise this progressive wonder boy decided to wade into the conversation on the police and race.  First, De Blasio could not keep his mouth shut when Eric Garner was killed accidentally by cops for selling cigarettes illegally (“I can’t breathe”).  Specifically, “We have initiated a comprehensive plan to retrain the entire NYPD to reduce the use of excessive force and to work with the community.”  That is not terrible.  But it feeds into a narrative the police and many in the city have of the mayor which I will get to in a second.

He was not done.  A day after the Garner decision the mayor, speaking about his biracial son said, “We have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face.”  Further, “For so many of our young people, there’s a fear. And for so many of our families, there’s a fear.”

The Left ate up his message as if it came from on high.  But to many in NYC, particularly the police, and the rest of the nation it sounded like an attack on the police.  Personally, it sounded like one to me.  Especially the part that came after when he said he and his wife have had to talk to their son about how to deal with the NYPD.  You know, the same force that is assigned to protect Dante everyday.

Following these comments protests erupted nationwide and one garnered special attention for it’s use of colorful language.  A crowd of protesters singing “What do we want? Dead cops.  When do we want it? Now!” Such a good exercise of the 1st Amendment.

Maybe the protestors fit into the New Left.  Maybe they are the fringe elements.  But it shows the social and policy consequences of the policies and language that leading figures in the movement use.  It also shows Bill’s policies have torn the city apart leaving the police, whites and wealthy on one side and the mayor and minorities on the other.

A mayor elected with 74% of the vote has successfully divided a city that was able to be united under his predecessors.  Division under De Blasio is nothing new.  His entire campaign was centered around the idea the wealthy were evil (not paying enough), the cops were racist (stop and frisk) and that injustice was a common practice in the city.  Combining this with De Blasio’s prior comments it is easy to see why he has alienated the police and many in the city.

Socially, such language rips at the fabric of our nation.  For all the racial progress America has made it is becoming ever more consumed by race relations.  Our politics, ideologies and values are becoming increasingly tied to race.  Differences are highlighted and similarities ignored.

Policy-wise, it ignores all the good cops across the country do every day, the prevalence of black on black violence and the reasons for why such violence is occurring in the first place.  The policy ideas of the New Left like gun control have been disproven in Chicago and it is not exactly a new idea.  Their ideas on abortion…well, don’t get me started.

The division New Leftist ideas have fostered in NYC is clear and could occur nationally.  When De Blasio entered a Brooklyn hospital to pay his respects to the murdered officers, police turned their backs on the mayor.  Former Republican NY state and city officials public criticized the mayor.  Among them, Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch, who said the blood of Ramos and Liu can be found leading up to the steps of City Hall.

Such division the mayor has fostered, dating back to his 2013 campaign, could easily lead to the same scenario nationally.  Other big city, blue mayors like Rahm Emanuel have adopted a tough on crime and close stance with their police forces.  It has actually paid off like “stop and frisk” has in NYC.  De Blasio, on the other hand is taking the divisive course.

Repairing such rifts is hard in NYC and would be virtually impossible nationally.  De Blasio is obviously clueless about why such anger exists in his police force.  Gee, maybe it is because your 2013 electoral strategy is not a good one to govern with. Division and race may be a good electoral strategy.  But it is not good policy.




Is Normalizing Relations with Cuba A Gamechanger in Florida?

0417-marco-rubio_standard_600x400Well, we know how Marco Rubio feels about the US “normalizing” relations with Cuba.  His anger is understandable.  Rubio’s parents fled Cuba and he feels as many older Cubans do that negotiating with the Communist state validates its human rights violations.  Oh, and than there is the little fact Cuba has a cop-killer living in their country.  Foreign policy implications aside for the moment the Obama administration’s announcement could rock the Florida electoral map.

Florida’s Hispanic population has largely been more conservative than their counterparts nationally.  This is due to the historically large Cuban-American exile population in the state.  But younger Cuban-Americans who have never grown up under Communism and a growing Puerto-Rican population based around Orlando have slowly been turning the Floridan Hispanic vote blue, if not at least purple.

Look at the results from prior elections.  Since 2000, Orlando based Orange and Osceola counties have been turned a dark shade of blue.  Meanwhile, exit polls from 2008 and 2012 suggest the Cuban-American electorate is becoming more swingy.  Most recently, 2014 exit polls show Charlie Crist won Cuban-Americans by 4% in the Governor’s race.  Rick Scott’s campaign disputes the claim and say their internal polling showed them winning the demographic up to election day.

As ideological and partisan realignment continues nationally and in Florida it is crucial for both parties to retain and build on their existing coalitions.  Hispanic Puerto-Ricans are unlikely to be significantly impacted by the Obama decision.  But for whites and Cuban-Americans the policy decision could be profound.

It is notable that support and opposition for “normalizing” relations with Cuba has been a bipartisan affair.  New Jersey Democratic Senator Rob Menendez has never been a fan of changing Cuba’s embargo status.  Rubio made his stance clear in an op-ed he recently penned.  Still, views on the issue are partisan as well.  Charlie Crist was a fan of “normalizing” relations with Cuba in the Governor’s race.  Rick Scott, in both 2010 and 2014, was firmly opposed.  The Cuban-American vote has largely been split on the issue.

The Obama administraion’s actions could also shake up the GOP Presidential nominating contest.  Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, in a Facebook post stated, “The Obama Administration’s decision to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba is the latest foreign policy misstep by this President, and another dramatic overreach of his executive authority. It undermines America’s credibility and undermines the quest for a free and democratic Cuba.” Other potential 2016 Republicans have been less direct on the issue, minus Rubio.

Hill Republicans have been more direct.  According to Politico, Senator Lindsey Graham warned on Twitter, “I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time.”  Ted Cruz is not a fan of a policy change and John Boehner has made clear he will not revisit the issue in the 114th Congress.  Only Rand Paul seems to be a fan of the policy decision.

This suggests that Obama’s ability to change America’s relations with Cuba are extremely limited.  With this limitation may come limits on its electoral outcomes.  Hispanics in Florida vote on more than just the issue.  As more Puerto-Ricans and Cuban-Americans are integrated into the American political system the potential for the set of issues they vote on to change is significant.  Hence, the relationship change may only have a short term impact.

Regardless, we know which side the 2016 contenders are likely to line up on.  Hillary Clinton is on baord with the plan.  Meanwhile, Rubio, Cruz and Bush, three prospective 2016 prospective candidates, certainly are not.  It does not appear that will change anytime soon.






Who Can Challenge Jeb Bush In 2016?

141006_gop_2016_aps_605In a prior post I wrote on Jeb Bush’s strengths and weaknesses.  Certainly they are varied.  Bush’s greatest weaknesses appear to be his issues with the base and his last name.  His strength lies in his ability to tap into the massive Bush donor network and the conservative story he can tell voters during his time as Florida Governor.

This post will complement the first and focus on the primary challengers Bush would likely have to contend with.  No potential GOP candidates, not even Bush, have officially declared but it is clear who has the most ambition to do so.  These potential candidates can be lumped into various groups but I lump them into three categories regardless of their tier status; establishment, conservative and quixotic.

Some definitions are in order here.  Establishment candidates adhere to the business friendly conservative spectrum of the GOP and by business I mean big business.  Conservative runs the gambit of candidates but it generally has a libertarian to cutting government lean (not just reforming it).  Lastly, quixotic candidates are those that could be considered 2nd tier and generally will hang their hat on a single issue.

So, let’s get started.  By far, the biggest establishment threats to Bush come in the form of Romney and Chris Christie.  Marco Rubio could fit into this category as well.  Romney is unlikely to run and Rubio has hedged but Christie is all but in.  Christie would compete for the same set of voters that Bush would, generally, the big donor and business GOP class.  Financially, Christie would threaten Bush’s domination over donors.  That said, both Christie and Bush have some pretty solid donor support so cutting into either’s would largely be contingent on how donors see their strengths and weaknesses.  Notably, this set of voters both Christie and Bush appeal to have limited electoral impact in Iowa but play more of a role in the following New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada contests.

Rubio is an interesting case.  He won in 2010 on the back of the Tea Party and a divided Democratic Party (thanks Charlie Crist).  Rubio, once a shining star for both the grassroots and party leadership has faded of late.  Initially backing Immigration Reform he backed off.  Yet, he has tried to stay on both sides of the fence by being a defense hawk and voting against multiple budget agreements.  Rubio’s appeal is largely cultural and it could eat into the narrative Jeb can win minorities.  Rubio came out against Obama’s “normalizing” of relations with Cuba before Bush did.  Rubio, a Cubna-American, has strong memories of the stories his parents told him about Communist Cuba.  Further, Rubio could prove a headache in Bush as he tries to consolidate moderate support.

The number of conservative candidates to challenge Bush is significant.  You have libertarian senator Rand Paul, GOP Governors Scott Walker, Mike Pence and Rick Perry, and has runs such as former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Governor Mike Huckabee.  Even Ohio Governor John Kasich could run (a long-shot).  They all pose challenges to Bush.

Perry, Santorum and Huckabee could seriously hurt Bush in Iowa.  Bush is a solid social conservative but unlike his possible trio of challengers he is not very vocal about it.  Bush could see a redux of 2012 when Romney narrowly won IA with less than 40% of the vote (Santorum was declared the winner after the fact).  Walker and Pence could easily eat into his support in the business wing as well as capture conservative votes.  Both Walker and Pence have recent policy successes against unions on the education front that can tout.  Paul has shown he is not shy about taking on traditional Republicans.  He has openly sparred with Bush and Rubio on Cuba for example.

Finally, there are the quixotic candidates.  These candidacies could include Ben Carson, Jon Bolton and Carly Fiorina.  None are career politicians and lack deep policy depth.  Hence, Carson will likely run on his cultural appeal, Fiorina her business experience and Bolton on his foreign policy expertise.  However, for any of these candidacies to truly threaten Bush the primary would need to center around one issue or set of issues.  There remains the threat if any of these candidacies became viable they could eat into Bush’s support but that is hard to see.

This simple analysis is not meant to imply Bush is the front-runner in the field.  Rather, Bush’s early declaration of intent suggests his team knows he has serious deficiencies that need to be addressed.  Other possible candidates do not suffer from the same issue.  Sure, Rand Paul has said foolish things from time to time but he has also been making efforts to broaden the party.  Christie, Walker and Pence all have solid records of governance in the recent past to stand on.

Bush has his story to tell that can make him the front-runner if the stars align.  He has the donor network to get his message out and his rust on the campaign stump can be worn off with practice.  He has the cultural appeal to rebuild the 2004 Bush Coalition (Hispanics, blue collar whites and affluent) and a conservative record to stand on and speak of with pride.  But to do that he needs to understand the field is wide open and the Bush brand is tarnished.  Maybe that is something that simply cannot be overcome.  We will see.

Jeb Bush for President, Really?

Jeb-BushOn Tuesday it was reported that Jeb Bush was forming an exploratory committee in preparation for a Presidential run.  Bush announcing this early is not surprising.  The oldest Bush has not won an election since 2002.  Considering the Presidential election is not until 2016 that would be a gap of 14 years between elections.  Smart Politics finds It has been 150+ years since the last time there was a 14-year gap between a presidential candidate’s last electoral victory and a successful White House campaign.

There may be other reasons Bush announced his intentions so early.  Rand Paul offered up one on Fox News, ““Maybe he has more ground he needs to gain. He’s been out of this a while so maybe he needs to get back in and practice up a bit.”  Other analysis has focused on the idea that Bush needs time to develop a national infrastructure (if not donor base).

But, the biggest calculation has to be that Bush is not well-known by the base.  Of those who do know about him the opinion is decidedly mixed.  Bush’s team has to know that like Romney they need to get out early and combat the idea he is just another, big government establishment Republican.  How they go about this is anybody’s guess.

Bush’s liabilities with the party faithful run deep.  He is a huge fan of Common Core and has not really offered up a nuanced position on Immigration Reform.  His green record on conservation offers up comparable images to Newt Gingrich sitting next to Nancy Pelosi and chatting up climate change.  He has also said that a Republican needs to lose the primary to win the general.  Um, okay.

Ted Cruz summed up what he thought of a Bush candidacy, “The GOP will lose with another moderate.”  Of course Cruz is likely to run for President so take this with a grain of salt.  But, Cruz’s sentiment echoes what many feel about yet another Bush on the ticket.  Democrats may feel all warm and cuddly with a Hillary candidacy because they think of the good old days under Bill but for Republicans and Bush the sentiment is far from similar.

Bush does have his strengths.  The guy was a strong, pro-growth Governor of Florida.  He aggressively cut taxes, $19 billion by his count, implemented a first in the nation school choice and voucher system while creating accountability standards for teachers.  He even offers up something for social conservatives when in 2005 and 2006 he became involved in the Terry Schaivo controversy.

Democrats are sure to use his conservative past against him.  Teachers unions loathe him as much as they dislike Scott Walker.  Abortion activists fear his actions in the Schaivo case reveal he is a more ideological culture warrior than George.  Democrats will argue he is another slash and burn Republican because of his stances on government.

Bush’s successes are mired in the murky past.  It is his most recent statements and actions that seem to carry more weight.  At a Congressional hearing in 2012, Bush responded when asked whether he would take a budget deal that cut spending but raised taxes, “If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 of spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, Coach.” The panel was not impressed.  Neither was Grover Norquist.  At the same panel Bush made clear he had not signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.

Further adding to Bush’s woes is the fact that conservative groups are pointing to a 45% increase in state spending during his tenure.  Not exactly a great thing to court conservatives with.  Even the fact that hurricanes hammered the state consistently from 04-06 is likely to fall on deaf ears.

Bush is ultimately dragged down more by his name more than anything else.  There is no warm feeling from conservatives to the Bush name and the actions the former Florida Governor has taken since he has left office has not helped.  If Jeb wants to be President he should really, really realize you do have to win the primary to win the general.  To do that Jeb needs to start mending his fences with the base and soon.


Addendum: This is part I of a two-part series on Bush’s Presidential aspirations.  The next edition will feature what competition Bush would likely be up against in the primary.