A Draft Jeb Bush Movement in 2012?

The year 2012 will mark the 60th anniversary of two milestones in American politics. The 1952 Democratic National Convention in Chicago selected Adlai Ewing Stevenson, the Governor of Illinois as its presidential nominee. This was the last major party convention in which the presidential nominee was drafted by the delegates, rather than being an announced candidate who pursued the nomination.

It took three ballots at that convention for the Democrats to select Stevenson, who lost the general election to General Dwight David Eisenhower. Since then, every national convention of both major parties has selected its nominee on the first ballot.

I am not predicting that it will take more than one ballot at the GOP National Convention in August, 2012 in Tampa, Florida for the Republicans to select their presidential nominee. Due to the change of GOP primary and convention rules, however, the number of winner-take-all primaries has been significantly reduced. The also-rans in each of these primaries could garner a significant number of delegates. Accordingly, there is a real possibility that neither of the two frontrunners, Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich, will arrive in Tampa with enough delegate pledges to win on the first ballot.

Jeb BushThis is particularly true if Michele Bachmann stays in the race. She will arrive in Tampa as the candidate of Evangelical and Tea Party voters. The Evangelicals are hostile to Romney due to anti-Mormon bigotry (let us not mince words), and they are lukewarm to Gingrich due to his highly publicized lifestyle and past divorces. As for Tea Party voters, they perceive both Mitt and Newt as having had big-spending records in their respective positions as Governor of Massachusetts and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

If it appears after the June, 2012 primaries that Bachmann has won enough ballots to deny a first ballot victory to both Mitt and Newt, talk will become rife of a brokered convention and a draft of a candidate other than Mitt or Newt. Jeb Bush will be the person most discussed as a possible draftee.

He was a superb governor of Florida, and he retains a remarkably high degree of popularity in the Sunshine State. Jeb has first rate communication skills and an ability to forge solutions on quality of life issues, particularly education and the environment. Although he is from the center-right, he is able to please both movement conservatives and moderates. In most presidential election years, Jeb Bush would be considered to be an ideal Republican presidential candidate.

For Jeb Bush, however, a 2012 candidacy for the White House is problematic on many levels. The problems start with his last name.

I have no doubt that historians will treat former President George W. Bush far more kindly than his contemporaries. I was most proud to serve in his administration. Yet there is no question that he remains highly unpopular among the American electorate. This unpopularity would not affect Jeb in any fight for the GOP presidential nomination. In a general election battle against the incumbent President Barack Obama, however, Jeb’s identification with his brother could be a major obstacle to his victory.

Jeb Bush does not want to run for president in 2012. It is virtually certain that he will endorse Mitt Romney in the Florida primary in order to avoid a Gingrich victory which, on the heels of Newt’s anticipated Iowa caucus and South Carolina victories, would spell the death knell of the Romney campaign. While Jeb still may have presidential aspirations, he obviously wants to wait until the name Bush stirs a lesser negative response in the electorate .

Yet in saving the Romney campaign and preventing Gingrich from scoring a Florida knockout, Jeb Bush may be unintentionally establishing the groundwork for a “Draft Jeb Bush for President” movement. A Romney Florida victory would be followed by a series of primaries in which Mitt and Newt win a roughly equal number of delegates.

In such a scenario, neither Newt nor Mitt would be able to score a knockout blow, and the likelihood of a second ballot at the convention would appear certain. Republican leaders would continue to be concerned about Mitt’s inability to motivate the conservative base and Newt’s personal baggage. You would read a plethora of columns speculating on the possibility of the party turning to another Bush.

Would Jeb Bush accept a draft? I don’t have an intimate personal relationship with him, but my guess is that he would decline for the reasons I gave above. If good economic news increases the likelihood of a reelection victory by President Barack Obama, a Jeb Bush refusal to accept a draft is even more certain.

If Obama continues to be unpopular, there is a slim chance that Jeb would accept a draft. I served in the administration of George W. Bush, and I was always struck by how sincerely the Bush family members believed public service to be a matter of duty. If GOP leaders persuaded Jeb Bush that Obama could be defeated, but not by either Mitt or Newt, then he may give at least some consideration to acceptance of a draft.

All this, of course, remains a matter of speculation. Perhaps Mitt will suddenly catch fire and unexpectedly win the Iowa caucuses and the Florida primary. Perhaps Newt will score a knockout blow in Florida after winning the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary. We will know the outcome of these contests by the end of January, 2012.

It remains improbable that the Republican Party will draft Jeb Bush to run for president in 2012. Nevertheless, the possibility cannot be dismissed, given the unique circumstances of this campaign. Just in case, I still have in my basement a collection of bumper stickers and badges from 1988, 1992, 2000, and 2004 that say “Bush for President.”

Source: Political TickerNJ

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