Chorus grows for 2012 Jeb Bush White House run

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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While Jeb Bush continues to insist that he will not be a candidate for president in 2012, several National Review writers seem to be encouraging the former Florida Governor to take the plunge. John J. Miller, Kathryn Jean Lopez, and Rich Lowry have all come forward in recent days to sing Jeb’s praises and speculate on another Bush candidacy.

Lowry argues that Bush, who says he might run in 2016, will miss his best chance to win if he doesn’t run next year. He points to what he says is Jeb’s ability to unite the Tea Party and the Republican establishment, his brother’s improving approval ratings since leaving the White House, and that, in 2016, Jeb will already have been out of office for ten years. By then, Lowry writes, Jeb’s accomplishments as governor will seem like “yesterday’s news.” Lowry also argues that in 2016 Republican rising stars like Marco Rubio and Chris Christie will be ready to run for president. In 2012, the field still looks wide open for a strong candidate like Jeb. “It’s an axiom of presidential politics that you have to run when you have the opening, even if it seems ‘too soon,’” writes Lowry. “This is why Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were elected president and Mario Cuomo never was.”

Miller takes a look at Jeb’s impressive record. John Ellis “Jeb” Bush was always the favorite son of the Bush family. The third child of George and Barbra, “Jebbie” always seemed to have his act together, unlike “Georgie”, the hard-partying problem child who grew up to become president. But George W. Bush was elected Governor in Texas in 1994, while Jeb lost his race by a narrow margin in Florida. Miller recounts that when former President George H. W. Bush called future president George W. Bush on that election night, it was Jeb who was foremost on his mind. “Why do you feel bad about Jeb?” George W. asked his father. “Why don’t you feel good about me?”

Jeb made it to the governor’s mansion in 1998 and was easily re-elected four years later. “He cut taxes by more than $19 billion, stashed nearly $8 billion into rainy-day reserves, and cut 13,000 state jobs as he privatized everything from toll-road collection to the leasing agencies for government offices,” Miller writes. The people of Florida approved: Jeb averaged a 58 percent approval rating during his time in office, and it spiked all the way to 64 percent toward the end of his second term. According to Miller, Jeb Bush is a “can-do conservative reformer” with a record that’s hard to beat.

Bush may also have an advantage when it comes to the hot-button issue of school reform. During Bush’s tenure as governor student test scores improved dramatically, and since leaving office he has become one of the most visable proponents of school reform nationwide. Largely because of Jeb’s efforts, Miller writes, “Florida’s schools have gone from among the worst in the country to among the best.”

Lopez thinks that Jeb shouldn’t be counted out just because of his last name. “Don’t be quick to dismiss a perfectly qualified and impressive candidate,” she writes. “Question the conventional… Records matter. Success matters. Workmanship matters. With those credentials, a familiar name ought not be a liability.”

Even Jim DeMint, a possible 2012 presidential candidate himself, likes the idea of another Bush on the ticket. “[Bush] would be a really good president and a good candidate,” the South Carolina Senator tells National Review’s Robert Costa. “He had a solid record as governor; he showed that he was willing to push innovative things in education and elsewhere.”

If Jeb Bush decides against a run he will still be one of next year’s most sought after endorsements – and a leading candidate for the GOP’s VP slot. “I think he’d definitely take the VP nod,” one unnamed Bush associate tells Lopez. With Florida’s status as a must-win state for any presidential contender, Bush just might be the ideal person to fill out the bottom half of any Republican ticket.

On that note, Lopez writes that CNN recently asked Bush if he would support a run by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

“You betcha,” he replied.