New York Times
By Jonathan Martin
June 15, 2015
Mr. Bush’s support in the primary will come chiefly from right-of-center Republicans, but he will also appeal to conservatives who are concerned most about choosing a nominee who is electable. Having decisively lost two straight presidential elections, Republicans are hungry to take back the White House. Mr. Bush, with his policy fluency, fund-raising capacity, links to the Hispanic community and political base in the country’s most pivotal swing state, is seen by some in the party as most capable of winning. While some Republicans are reluctant to nominate a third Bush for president, others are fond of his family and will be more inclined to back Mr. Bush because of his lineage. A crucial question is how many other Republicans will be in his “lane.” If harder-line candidates divide the conservative vote, Mr. Bush could win states with only a plurality of voters. But he is not the only candidate hoping to win over center-right primary voters. If he fails, it will likely be, at least in part, because he was squeezed from both flanks.
Mr. Bush’s campaign acknowledges he almost certainly must win one of the first four nominating contests – Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina or Nevada – to remain in contention when the race turns to a succession of states in March. But it is not clear which of those four affords Mr. Bush his best opportunity. New Hampshire, where unaffiliated voters can participate in either party’s primary, may present the most obvious target. His aides believe that if he survives the first burst of contests, his financial advantage will sustain and carry him to the nomination. No other candidate, they say, will be able to air TV ads simultaneously in the many states planning to hold primaries in the first half of March.
More than any other Republican candidate, Mr. Bush is running a campaign geared toward the general election. On immigration, he has refused to back off his support for a pathway to legal status for the undocumented. This stance may turn off elements of the Republican base, but Mr. Bush and his advisers believe that to retreat on the issue would all but ensure another general-election defeat. More broadly, Mr. Bush is trying to refashion his older brother’s “compassionate conservatism” as an aspirational brand of Republican politics tailored for an era of declining social mobility. He wants to send a message to both primary and general-election voters that he will pursue support from a broad range of Americans. But, as with George W. Bush, much of this positioning is done through tone. On economics and foreign policy, Jeb Bush is unlikely to deviate from Republican orthodoxy during the campaign. The Republican base, after all, will only tolerate so much apostasy.
Why He Will Win
Since Barry Goldwater upended the political order in capturing the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, the party has crowned establishment-oriented candidates often seen as the most likely to win the general election. In recent years, even relatively weak right-of-center Republican contenders have found a way to fend off conservative threats. Given Mr. Bush’s financial strength, family network and potential appeal among swing voters, he is the obvious heir to this tradition. Presidential campaigns are endurance tests that reward candidates who make the fewest mistakes and can withstand the unrelenting scrutiny native to the process. With an easy command of a range of policy issues, a comfort with the news media and a family that has been extensively vetted, Mr. Bush could be the survivor.
Why He Won't
The establishment wing of the Republican Party is on the wane, and Mr. Bush represents the perpetuation of a candidate prototype many conservatives are determined to thwart, at last, in 2016. While he has considerable support from the party’s donors, he has no significant constituency among rank-and-file primary voters. And unlike in the last presidential primary, Republican voters have other candidates to choose from who could better fuse the party’s centrist and conservative constituencies.
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