Jeb Bush keeps saying he hasn’t made a final decision about running for president. Most of the chattering classes think it’s nonsense, that he’s just holding back a formal announcement while he helps a friendly super pac raise oodles of money. But, for a moment, let’s take him at his word — and encourage him not to.
Here are five reasons the former Florida governor should forego a run for the White House.
1. He dived into the presidential political waters with a “shock and awe” strategy to lock up big Republican establishment donors, round up the best and brightest of GOP advisers, and scare other Republicans from the race. He’s succeeded only on the money front as he appears to be on course to raise $100 million for the primary battle. The New York Times emailed “about 120 people” who worked for President George W. Bush and found only “about 25 who said they were supporting his younger brother.” While Jeb Bush has lined up an impressive group of advisers, some of them are associated with what is now considered the disastrous 2003 decision to invade Iraq. And clearly he failed to muscle anyone out of the contest (except maybe Mitt Romney) with the primary field growing every week. Shock and awe that ain’t.
2. The latest national polls show him, at best, in a tie with three or four other candidates for the lead in the Republican primary field. He holds a slight lead in the most recent poll for the first-in-the-nation primary in New Hampshire, but Sen. Marco Rubio was gaining on him. A long, drawn-out race looms as a possibility. Bush will have the financial resources to go the distance but he and/or his super pac might have to go negative to keep one of his competitors from breaking out. Mudslinging would inevitably damage whoever emerges as the nominee, not a political legacy Bush would want. A long race might culminate in a face-off in his home state against his protege Rubio, which also doesn’t sound like an appealing prospect.
3. Where’s the excitement? Bush’s record and what he’s saying on the campaign trail indicate he could be a good president. But there’s no pizzazz. Rubio, for instance, has it, Bush doesn’t. What’s more, Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others represent the 21st century while Bush, fairly or unfairly, seems like a holdover from yesteryear.
4. The name won’t go away as an issue. While we’ve had examples of presidents from the same family, father-son John Adams and John Quincy Adams and cousins Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, the country has not had three presidents from the same family. President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq will not, as Jeb Bush has learned, go away as an issue. He will be questioned more than he wants about issues from the presidencies of his brother and his father, George H.W. Bush. Jeb Bush could find himself painted into a corner of criticizing decisions of his brother and father, not a congenial prospect for him or his family. Even if he were nominated, the idea of a father and two sons ruling the White House will remain a hard sell.
5. Of course, dynasty would crop up as an issue with Hillary Clinton as the Democrat nominee, which seems all but certain. There’s not much to be gained in a debate over which dynasty might be the better one. Does Bush think he could win an argument over the characterization, however unfair it might be, of his brother’s term as one of war and financial collapse versus the peace and prosperity of the Bill Clinton presidency? And in a battle of dynasties, Clinton will have an advantage in that she’s running to be the first woman president. Bush doesn’t have any oomph on his side to counter that.
Bush has said he sees a path for himself to the presidency. These five points suggest otherwise.