WASHINGTON — Could it happen again? A third Bush headed for the White House come 2016?
Some Republican establishment figures would like to think so. They have taken a quick look at the early crop of likely Republican presidential contenders two years from now and are, shall we say, underwhelmed.
The Bush in question is former Florida governor Jeb Bush, brother of former President George W. Bush and son of the 41st president, George H.W. Bush. Jeb Bush was a popular two-term governor who had success in winning the votes of centrist Democrats and Hispanic-Americans, something mainstream Republican leaders would love to replicate with their White House nominee in 2016.
There are plenty of questions about this scenario. Does Jeb Bush really want to run for president in 2016? Not long ago Bush said he would be interested in running if he could do it “joyfully”, which for most people would seem a non-starter right out of the box. Bush says he will make a decision by late this year or early next.
Another question is whether Americans are ready to elect another Bush as president. The negative hangover from the George W. Bush presidency lasted quite a while. His public approval ratings have only recently started to climb and even some Republicans worry that the country just isn’t interested in electing another Bush so soon after his brother left office.
Bush has been out of elective politics for the past several years. Since his last campaign, the Tea Party movement has emerged as a major factor in Republican Party politics and has developed a habit of targeting establishment Republicans seen as too compromising and not sufficiently conservative.
For some of the rabid Tea Party loyalists, Jeb Bush might fit in that category and could become a juicy target if he runs in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries. Any number of new Republican faces could challenge Bush in the primaries about his conservative values including Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.
Looking for a Winner
But Bush could have a big advantage if he runs in 2016 by appealing to Republicans looking for a presidential winner, especially if Democrats nominate former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Among those interested in a Bush candidacy is casino magnate and big-time campaign donor Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson recently invited Bush and several other possible Republican White House contenders to Las Vegas to address a gathering of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Adelson met privately with Bush and is said to be interested in backing a winner in 2016 after he backed Newt Gingrich in his losing battle against Mitt Romney in 2012.
The Associated Press reports Adelson has a net worth estimated at $40 billion and he donated more than $90 million to political groups during the 2012 election cycle.
Others who attended the Las Vegas event included New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich. All of them are considered more in the mainstream category of potential Republican candidates and could benefit if Jeb Bush decides not to run two years from now.
What’s becoming clear, both from the early rumblings in the 2016 presidential race and recent events in Congress, is that mainstream Republicans are trying to reclaim a lead role in shaping the party’s future by pushing for more electable candidates, whether in key Senate races for this year’s midterm elections or in the 2016 presidential sweepstakes.
How effective mainstream Republicans are in reasserting themselves over the Tea Party factions could determine how successful Republicans will be in both the 2014 and 2016 election cycles.