Jeb! formally announced he is running for president today. Although he did not discuss it in his speech, Jeb! apparently used some of his enormous war chest to pay the firm behind Bess Baker’s student body president campaign to design his logo. The exclamation point logo and bright red coloring seems more fitting for tomorrow’s expected announcer-of-the day, the Donald. Sadly, though the logo seems par for the course in the contest to see who will be the reddest of the red.
Despite the logo, I have high hopes for Jeb Bush. He has a credible record as the governor of a large state. In addition to being an important electoral college swing state, Florida has a complex economy and lots of immigration issues. Florida’s population is full of Medicare and Medicaid recipients, which impacts the state budget. While governor, Jeb presided over significant education reform with a modicum of success. He seems to be scandal free. Other than the logo, Jeb has stuck to positions unpopular in the party’s base at a political cost because he believes his policies to be the right ones. Maybe my age is showing but I have a hard time seeing the evil in an experienced and principled politician who can probably deliver one of the two states Republicans absolutely have to have to capture the White House.
Most of Jeb’s mates in the declared GOP lifeboat will probably whisper in your ear that the main problem is the same last name that is missing from the logo. Which seems harsh. Let’s start with this base fact: that last name captured the White House three times, something “Paul,” “Walker” or “Fiorino” has never done. Most importantly, given the last name of the presumptive Democratic nominee, the “royalty issue” cannot really hurt the party other than to suppress overall voter turnout based on a lack of interest. Given that suppressing turnout is a key pillar in the GOP platform, the party should be all for a Bush-Clinton contest.
There has been some thought that Jeb will be stuck with the “failed policies” of his brother. Which is a fine attack for Hillary Clinton to launch but it is odd that the GOP candidates can make that claim while at the same time promising to return us to the failed policies of George W. Bush. Of course, they do not say it quite that way but what else would you call the repeal of Obamacare with no replacement strategy, relaxing environmental regulations and instituting a more adventurous foreign policy in the Middle East?
At the end of the day, I like Jeb Bush because he is an adult. Unlike most of his GOP opponents, Jeb’s record and his personality suggest he does not view Americans who disagree with him on some issues as “the enemy..” For instance, it is probably hard to work up a huge amount of personal animosity for Bill Clinton’s wife when Bill Clinton is friends with your dad. Unlike Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush probably will not have to apologize for taking cheap shots at Joe Biden right after his son dies, because Jeb Bush will not be taking cheap shots at all.
To some, that moderate attitude and lineage reeks of the establishment, the tri-lateral commission or the boys’ club (now apparently open to females willing to act like boys). Having been locked out of 1600 Pennsylvania for eight years, “the base” is frothing at the mouth and in no mood for moderation. Which is why the old Jeb has seen his poll standing move in the wrong direction. The new Jeb! might be a temporary fix for that problem but I have a hard time believing he can be a full-time, red letter, exclamation point sort of a candidate. At least I hope not. Neither Jeb nor Jeb! can get to the right of Walker, Cruz, et al. I am enough of an optimist to believe there is a place in the GOP for someone who can speak to the middle. But he does not need an exclamation point to have that discussion.