Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is mounting a serious challenge for the GOP presidential nomination that appears to be a complete reversal of the way that John McCain and Mitt Romney won with their campaigns, according to Yahoo News’ political columnist Matt Bai.
“The simplest thing to do as a Republican candidate in 2016, and the thing consultants will push their clients to do in every mindless memo, is to follow the most recently established playbook,” Bai wrote
“Political pros, like generals, are almost always fighting the last war. And so everyone will point to John McCain and Mitt Romney, the party’s last two nominees, as pretty good examples of how to win.
“Move right and talk tough on issues like immigration and Common Core. Leave all that moderate baggage at the train station. Make yourself palatable, at least, to conservative activists, and then you’ll have plenty of time to re-establish your sobriety once the primaries are over.”
But Bai says Bush is going in another direction. His counterintuitive program was revealed recently in a speech he gave to business leaders in Washington D.C. when he praised the virtues of pragmatism and practicality, and said that a less extremist candidate has to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general” – in other words, acting more like a moderate conservative.
“To me…Jeb remains the shrewdest political strategist in the family,” wrote Bai, the former chief political writer for The New York Times Magazine, while noting that the 2016 primaries will be a far cry from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns.
Six years ago, McCain’s only real competition from the right was Mike Huckabee, who had actor Chuck Norris showing up to support him at every turn. Four years later Romney only had Rick Santorum with his social conservative views to fend off.
Bush, however, will face a much more crowded and formidable field of candidates in 2016, possibly including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Bobby Jindal, who run the gamut of the party’s ideological political spectrum.
“In a field like that, if your name is Bush and you once worked for Lehman Brothers and you’ve championed a more compassionate approach to immigrants and a national school curriculum, making yourself merely acceptable to the activist base isn’t going to get you very far. Just because they can get over their lingering mistrust doesn’t mean they’re going to vote for you over so many viable, more steadfast alternatives.
“I’m no strategist, but it seems to me that the smart play this time, if you’re Bush or Chris Christie or Marco Rubio, is to let the other guys fight it out for Survivalist of the Year and set your sights on the party’s other, broader constituencies: the right-leaning independents and mainline conservatives who fear that a Republican nominee too easily caricatured as extreme will lead the country straight into the embrace of Hillary Clinton.
“If you can unify that voting bloc, more or less, and end up going one-on-one with a candidate like Paul or Walker on Super Tuesday, then you’ve got a very real path to the nomination.”
Bai concluded by saying “Jeb Bush isn’t going to be the hard-edged conservative pick for president in 2016, so there’s really no percentage for him in acting like it. And judging from his latest comments, Bush knows it, too.”
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