- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2014

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush now sits atop the leader board in the latest rankings of potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Kyle Kondik and Larry Sabato said Mr. Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lead the Republican pack.

Mr. Bush, they said, leads the field thanks in large part to Mr. Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal in New Jersey, which has left the GOP establishment — including the Bush family itself — to consider other possible presidential standard bearers.

“For all the sturm und drang regarding the Tea Party in the Republican nominating process, it’s going to be hard for someone who lacks widespread establishment support — like Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) or Ted Cruz (R-TX) — to win the nomination,” they said. “Political science research indicates that endorsements from sitting officeholders and party leaders can be quite predictive of presidential nominees.”

“And that leads us to another reason to take a potential Bush candidacy seriously: The establishment loves him,” they said. In recent months, we’ve noticed an unmistakable and widespread desire among some of the Republicans we talk to, particularly ones who would be classified as members of the establishment on and off Capitol Hill, for a third Bush nominee in less than three decades.”

Mr. Bush has not indicated whether he plans to run, but has refused to rule it out.

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