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US Republicans Look for New Leadership


Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (2013 photo)

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (2013 photo)

U.S. Republicans are still licking their wounds, following last November’s presidential election in which President Barack Obama won a second term and Republicans lost seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives. But, some Republicans are already turning their attention to the next presidential election in 2016.

Some Republicans are excited about the possibility of a third member of the Bush family making a run for the White House in 2016.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has seen his brother, George W., serve as president as well as his father, George H.W. Bush. Republicans approached Jeb Bush about running both in 2008 and 2012 but he rebuffed them both times.

Now Bush says he is considering a run in 2016, but is far from making a decision.

Bush has published a new book advocating comprehensive immigration reform and he spoke about that on NBC’s Today show.

“Immigration is a gateway issue. It is not the dominant issue for Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, but it is a gateway. If you send a tone that you do not want people to be part of your team they do not join,” he said.

Even if Bush decides to run in 2016 he will likely join a crowded Republican field of presidential hopefuls. A younger generation led by Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan may also be drawn to the race for the White House, along with Republican governors like Chris Christie from New Jersey and Bobby Jindal from Louisiana. That group could also include Tea Party favorites like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and even Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who is new to the Senate this year.

One thing many Republicans agree on is the need to broaden the appeal of their party beyond the traditional bastion of support among older white men.

Even last year’s losing Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, realizes the need to branch out. He spoke to Fox News Sunday in his first major interview since his defeat last November.

“Clearly we have to do a better job of bringing minority voters into voting for Republicans. We have got to do a better job taking our message to them and help them understand why we are the party with the ideas that will make their life better,” Romney said.

Republican analyst Scot Faulkner says there is no national party leader at the moment, offering an opportunity to many lesser-known Republicans to step forward and take a shot at the national stage.

“You have a national party that is very polarized," he said. "Without a figurehead it may be good to have a number of voices right now because the Republican Party is rudderless.”

Hardcore conservatives believe Mitt Romney lost because he compromised on conservative principles in hopes of winning over moderate voters.

Strains also remain within the Republican Party between establishment figures in the party and more conservative elements of the Tea Party movement, something that worries Republican political strategists.

“They are very frightened about the possibility that there could be a much deeper schism that could be devastating to even their chances of competing for the presidential win in 2016,” said analyst Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, who appeared on VOA’s Press Conference USA program.

Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown says recent surveys show Republicans have some work to do to improve their national image with voters.

“Seventy percent of voters disapprove of what Republicans are doing in Congress," he said. "Sixty percent disapprove of what Democrats are doing. Neither is anything to write home about, but the Democratic brand is in a little better shape."

Exerts say the Republicans who are considering a run for president in 2016 are not likely to make a decision until after the 2014 midterm congressional elections.
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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

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