How Good Are Jeb’s Chances?

by Dish Staff

How Conservative

Nate Silver and his team created “ideological scores for a set of plausible 2016 Republican candidates based on a combination of three statistical indices: DW-Nominate scores (which are based on a candidate’s voting record in Congress), CFscores (based on who donates to a candidate) and scores (based on public statements made by the candidate)”:

Bush scores at a 37 on this scale, similar to Romney and McCain, each of whom scored a 39. He’s much more conservative than Huntsman, who rates at a 17.

Still, Bush is more like his father, George H.W. Bush, who rates as a 33, than his brother George W. Bush, who scores a 46. And the Republican Party has moved to the right since both Poppy and Dubya were elected. The average Republican member in the 2013-14 Congress rated a 51 on this scale, more in line with potential candidates Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Mike Huckabee.

So as a rough cut, Bush is not especially moderate by the standard of recent GOP nominees. But the gap has nevertheless widened between Bush and the rest of his party.

The odds Silver gives Jeb:

Betting markets put Bush’s chances of winning the Republican nomination at 20 percent to 25 percent, which seems as reasonable an estimate as any. You can get there by assuming there’s a 50 percent chance that he survives the “invisible primary” and the early-voting states intact and a 40 percent to 50 percent chance that he wins the nomination if he does. It’s a strategy that worked well enough for McCain and Romney.

But Larison argues that “some of the things that have previously been identified as Bush’s ‘strengths’ may no longer be advantages”:

Many conservatives have less patience with Bush’s corporate “centrism” now than there was ten years ago. He may not have a “Mitt Romney problem,” but he has the problem of being corporate America’s favorite candidate. The politics of immigration today is more treacherous for pro-immigration Republicans. Brian Beutler may be overstating the case when he says that Obama’s executive action on immigration has doomed Bush from the start, but he isn’t wrong that being seen as a pro-amnesty politician is a bigger problem for Bush now than it would have been just a few years ago.

Bush is often lauded for his interest in education reform, but this may end up being a serious weakness in a Republican nomination fight.

On that front, Yglesias doubts the Common Core matters:

The thought that the Common Core, of all things, would somehow derail a presidential campaign is a little odd. Federal education policy is a second-tier issue, and as Nate Silver has shown there’s no clear partisan tilt on the Common Core issue among the mass public. Lots of ordinary parents find the Common Core to be somewhat bizarre, but it’s well-supported among education experts.

And, crucially, Jeb is not some kind of ideological heretic on education policy issues. Within the relatively small world of conservative education specialists, he’s extremely well-liked. If party leaders decide that a charge against the Common Core is their #1 goal for 2017, then obviously Jeb is out of luck. But that would be a very weird thing to decide.

Robby Soave disagrees:

It’s true that Mitt Romney managed to win the nomination despite having an unpalatable former position on his election’s pivotal issue—Obamacare. But Romney managed to hedge his previous support for the program by insisting that he never would have taken it to the federal level. Bush, on the other hand, isn’t hedging his Common Core support one iota. He remains the most high-profile supporter of national education standards on the right.

Anyone who expects rank-and-file conservatives to overlook the issue is underestimating the extent of anti-Common Core sentiment among the electorate.

First Read notes that Jeb isn’t particularly popular:

According to our poll, just 31% of all voters say they could see themselves supporting him for president, while 57% say they can’t. He’s more popular among Republicans (55% support, 34% can’t support), which is the second-best GOP score in the poll behind Mitt Romney (see at the bottom). But he fares worse among Democrats (9%-79%) and, more importantly, independents (34%-52%). These numbers follow our Nov. 2014 NBC/WSJ poll, which found Bush’s fav/unfav rating at a net-negative 26%-33%. Of course, this is all subject to change. We could see how Bush — if he runs and bests his GOP competition — could improve his numbers among Republicans and some independents. Nothing can change polling numbers like success. But right now, he’s not Mr. Popular (in large part, we think, because of his last name). And it’s going to take time for him to become Jeb and not a Bush.

Francis Wilkinson asserts that “Bush appears to be demanding that the party now change to suit him”:

Unlike Christie and Romney, two guys who talk tough but shrink from confrontation with the party base, Bush seems determined to run as someone who really does call it as he sees it. It’s an admirable stance and perhaps Bush is sufficiently authentic that it’s the only one possible for him. Call it the audacity of hope. For there is no evidence that his party is eager for anything like straight talk.

Along the same lines, Nate Cohn is unsure the GOP establishment will get its way:

If top G.O.P. donors are indeed choosing between Mr. Bush, Mr. Christie and Mr. Romney, they might not have a better option than Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Bush is not a particularly strong candidate either. He may have friends in the donor class, but he hasn’t run for office in a decade, and he enters with no base of support among the G.O.P. primary electorate. He may not be lucky enough to face an opponent as flawed as Mr. Santorum or Mr. Huckabee. This year’s Republican candidates have the potential to be far stronger than in recent cycles, and if one builds momentum, the establishment’s early, anointed pick might not be able to stop him.