By taking him seriously, that does not mean I want him to win, let alone run. My number one pick is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, followed by US Senator Rand Paul. Should Susana Martinez of New Mexico run, I would see her as a third, followed by Ted Cruz.
But I would not take Bush off the table entirely. I have slightly more enthusiasm for Bush as opposed to the 2012 candidate, Mitt Romney.
For starters, he is pro-life, and pro Second Amendment. His record in Florida boasts a true record of fiscal conservatism and education reform. He even launched a long-term attack against a public rapid transit boondoggle, and won.
These four strikes have galvanized critics against Bush: Amnesty, Common Core, the Bush legacy, and the Establishment label.
Without revisiting the clearly unpalatable aspects of a Bush campaign (or Presidency), one has to acknowledge that on the Establishment front, he is doing a better job than Romney did, and would be better than the 2012 candidate.
|Mitt Romney during 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics|
He just resigned from the board of a company which profited heavily from Obamacare. Romney still had tax shelters all over the Bermuda Islands when he was running for President. Optics matter, and for Romney, they were not good. Bush is not making that mistake.
Bush has not hedged or run away from his views on immigration or Common Core. Aside from those two policy issues, Bush is clearly conservative. No RomneyCare, nor big government waste and fraud. Romney attempted to present himself as a consensus conservative who could appeal across the board to Republicans and Independents. His dismal performance on talk shows, and interviews in the media, demonstrated that he was not at ease even with Himself, nor willing to articulate a clear message of the Romney administration. He was a legacy project, without much of a legacy.
Then there's the personal drive. Bush wants to be President. He is a clearly ambitious politician, announcing his plans for an exploratory committee about running for President. Romney had been in the campaign mode from 2007, yet he looked weak and ineffective in 2008 against McCain, who tagged him as the real candidate of "change" because of his switch from moderate positions in Massachusetts to pro-life stances for the national context. (McCain was right, by the way). Good presidential candidates, and presidents, should want to win, and not feel dragged into by some ephemeral sense of duty. Of course, ambition is not enough for a good President (witness Barack Obama), but voters are more drawn to someone, to anyone who wants the job.
Jeb Bush can talk to people, even if we do not like what he stands for. Romney, not so much. Anyone could draw from his speeches and declarations as Governor, then juxtapose them with his 2008/2012 aspirations, and find two different people.
Of the three potential Establishment candidates who could run in 2016 (including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie) Bush would be the best of the bunch, and in comparison to Romney, he would be a better candidate. Does this mean I want a Bush Presidency? No. It does mean, however, that the deep GOP bench for 2016 is really good, because even the least desirable candidates are viable, and are learning from the mistakes of their predecessor.