The conventional wisdom inside the beltway is Jeb Bush’s biggest impediment to being the Republican nominee in 2016 is his enthusiastic support for amnesty and Common Core, which are non-starters for the GOP base.
As usual, the 202 area code’s conventional wisdom is wrong: Jeb’s biggest obstacle to being the third member of the Bush clan elected president is himself.
Let’s face it, John McCain was and continues to be the very face of amnesty, and he even brokered a pro-amnesty deal with Ted Kennedy of all people, but he still won the nomination in 2008. Conservatives despise Obamacare most of all. Yet its architect, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was the GOP nominee in 2012.
Until a champion emerges who is capable of coalescing enough tea partiers, social conservatives, and libertarians to win the nomination, we could see a repeatin 2016 of what happened in 2008 and 2012. That means if we in the grassroots haven’t learned our lesson, you could very well see another establishment candidate take advantage of a splintered conservative base to capture the nomination.
And Jeb Bush is best positioned currently to be that candidate.
With New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie becoming political toast, it’s obvious the Republican Party establishment has rightfully moved on to the far more likable and accomplished former Florida governor. Not to mention in establishment circles the name “Bush” certainly doesn’t hurt. Plus, Christie wouldn’t even win his own state in a general election, while it’s likely Jeb would win his, which also happens to be a crucial swing state.
But somebody forgot to tell Jeb Bush you don’t move to the middle and disappoint your base until after the primary, let alone before the primary even starts.
Last September Jeb awarded Hillary “What difference does it make?” Clinton of all people a “Liberty Medal” from the National Constitution Center. Because, you know, nothing says constitutional limited government and separation of powers like Hillary Clinton.
But that’s not all.
Jeb Bush gave Hillary Clinton this medal on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the Benghazi terrorist attacks. The same Benghazi terrorist attacks we still have lingering questions about, as Sen. Ted Cruz pointed out this week. The same Benghazi terrorist attacks that Hillary Clinton and the entire Obama Regime lied about when they tried to blame the whole thing on some two-bit filmmaker rather than the Islamists responsible. The same Benghazi terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including our diplomat, whose families have still not received justice for their loss. The same Benghazi terrorist attacks that will now be scrutinized by a Select Committee of the House of Representatives.
What was Jeb thinking? Suppose the House Select Committee uncovers damaging evidence about the former secretary of state’s knowledge of the attacks and the ensuing cover-up. Can you imagine Jeb trying to confront her on it during the 2016 campaign, only to have Hillary remind the American people of the “liberty medal” that Jeb personally awarded her? Didn’t we learn a lesson from the last presidential campaign, when we nominated a guy who couldn’t confront Obama on his worst failure because it was his idea first?
However, that’s unfortunately not even the worst messaging sin Jeb has committed as of late. Jeb said that, if elected president, he would govern like LBJ. Obviously he was talking about style here and not substance (at least I hope he was). But with the Republican base already in open revolt, why tell them that you compare yourself favorably with the guy who gave us the welfare state and our most unpopular war ever?
Furthermore, if your chief argument for the nomination is you’re “electable” (and of course, only people who hate conservatives get to define what that means), then why compare yourself to the guy who was so unpopular he chose not to run for re-election rather than risk the wrath of the voters?
One of the “10 Commandments of Political Warfare” from my new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again” is “define yourself before your opponent defines you and define your opponent before he defines himself.”
Based on his own messaging here, Jeb is defining himself as essentially a replay of his brother’s presidency, which ended with George W. Bush leaving office with the lowest final approval rating in the history of the Gallup poll.
If you’re Jeb Bush, you already have enough factors working against you (Bush fatigue, the base doesn’t want you, etc.) Why saddle yourself with this baggage as well?
Then again, what do I know? I’m not one of the smartest guys in the room who have lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections.
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and the author of “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)