It’s midsummer, 2011. We have just 16 months until the general election of November 2012, which will decide whether we get four more years of Barack Obama or if our nation shall decide on another course. For Republicans, we have just 7 months until the Iowa caucus and the string of electoral contests that will kick off in state after state to select our party’s nominee. And yet, there is no clear front runner.
The party’s money is likely on Mitt Romney, who is raising boatloads of cash. The tea party favorites range from long-shot candidates like Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Ron Paul. The candidates with the most experience (and perhaps best conservative credentials) such as Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, have been mediocre at best. And others, like Newt Gingrich and John Huntsman, have been everything from disappointing to too liberal for the 2012 primary season. Republican voters have not given any of the above candidates any real enthusiasm despite the political and economic climate that is making a Republican victory over Obama more feasible.
Someone is missing from this race. It’s the most formidable candidate the GOP has: Jeb Bush.
The biggest reason most people say Jeb “can’t run” or “won’t run” in 2012 is because the country has “Bush fatigue.” Just less than four years ago, we had a President Bush who served two full terms. With a controversial war in Iraq, an inept response to Hurricane Katrina, a number of speaking flaws, and an economic collapse at the end of his Presidency, let’s face it, he didn’t go out on a very popular note. And, if you think he was unpopular, his father’s Presidency only saw one term.
However, if this is the only reason that Jeb shouldn’t run in 2012 (or ever, for that matter), I think this is a false rationale. Even among those who liked one or more of the Bush presidencies, they might suggest that the country doesn’t want a Bush dynasty. We have never had three Presidents from the same family – and if Jeb were to run in 2012 (and win), he’d be the third consecutive Republican President with the last name Bush.
Still, I suggest: let voters decide. If we the people think a third Bush is too much to handle, we’ll let it be known at the ballot box. Why penalize a guy because his dad and older brother took the job first?
Here are my top 10 reasons why the Republican Party needs Jeb in 2012:
1. Because we won’t need him in 2016: If Jeb ever wants to be President, now is the time – not later. In 2016, we’ll have a flurry of upcoming conservative rock stars and we won’t want to be looking back in the past. On the rise are Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Bobby Jindal, Rand Paul, and perhaps others. In 2012, the field has proved weak – and Jeb is needed to save the Republican Party from defeat and the country from a continued political and economic disaster. With Obama as vulnerable as we could have ever imagined, Jeb will have as strong a shot at winning back the White House as ever. If he doesn’t step into the race in 2012, when needed most, we won’t even consider him in 2016, when our slate of candidates improve.
2. Jeb takes Florida off the map. Jeb is uber-popular in Florida. A poll conducted just a few short months ago had Jeb at 57% and Obama at 38% in a head-to-head race in Florida. Without Jeb on the ticket, Florida is in question. The Obama campaign has launched an aggressive attack here already – helping Democrats take the mayoral seats of Tampa and Jacksonville. They’ve got boots on the ground. Obama has even gone so far as to visit Puerto Rico – to show the many Puerto Ricans living in the Orlando area that he cares about their homeland. With Jeb on the ticket, Florida is won and the GOP can concentrate resources on other battleground states, putting Obama on the defensive. And let’s not forget that Florida is even more important in 2012. After having picked up two more electoral votes with the 2010 Census, Florida is now the third largest state in the electoral college (with 29 votes), tied with New York.
3. Jeb is articulate and intellectual: Jeb is a policy wonk and he has the added ability to communicate in language that most Americans can relate to. He has demonstrated this as the leader in the school choice movement and while dealing with the many hurricanes that crossed the state of Florida. He got on television and communicated directly with the people during many live press conferences. There were no Katrina’s on his watch. Bottom line: he knows the policy alternatives and will crush Obama in the debates.
4. His run elevates the school choice Issue: School choice is now a bipartisan issue, with much thanks to Jeb himself. He has built so much good will around the country, I am willing to bet even some moderate Democrats will come out and support him over Obama, most likely even in swing states. He can also tout this issue to show he is a positive reformer and how this issue helps minorities (and the poor) the most. He can point to his home state of Florida as the leading example. As the school choice programs Jeb implemented were put into place, Florida has gone from near the bottom of the barrel in education rankings, to top 10 in the country. Every candidate claims they want to be the “education President.” Jeb actually has results and is arguably the leader in the country on this issue. Much like you can take Florida off the map, Obama will also be forced to take the education issue off the table as well.
5. Jeb is bilingual: Is there a better time when the Republican Party needs someone who can speak to the growing hispanic community? Jeb is not only bilingual, but his wife is from Mexico. He can directly speak to the immigration issue – he married one. While residing in the diverse immigrant community of Miami, the Republican Party (and perhaps America itself) can have no greater candidate that is well versed on these issues.
6. He will “redeem” the Bush family name: Not that this matters, but he will. He has the best (and most conservative) record among them, is the most articulate, and is most knowledgeable about the issues that face this country. In addition, George W.’s foreign policy, so criticized by Obama the candidate, have mostly been adopted (or at least not reversed) by Obama the President. Every time Obama tries to remind the country about “going back to the Bush era,” Jeb is best prepared to take him on.
7. He’s an “insider” and an “outsider.” Jeb is an outsider because he has never held any office inside the beltway. He has been Governor of Florida for 8 years – and he has not held a political office since (he left office in January 2007). He is primarily a businessman and an education policy guru. Yet, he’s not so far outside, obviously. With a brother and father who have been President, he has enough connections to where he can launch a campaign in 24 hours if need be. He can fundraise, get media attention, and be the leading candidate in the race tomorrow, if he chooses.
8. Strong Record as Governor. He didn’t start as the most popular Governor, but he sure ended as one of the most popular Governors in Florida’s history. He is as well-respected a leader in the country as anyone, mostly due to his principled leadership of the most diverse state in the union. And the people of Florida know the difference between Jeb and the not-as-popular Bush’s that occupied the White House.
9. Florida is due a President: It’s well past time that the third largest state in the union, one that is a microcosm of the nation, is represented in the White House. No Floridian has ever been President. With Florida on the rise and as a state that captivates the imagination of Americans far and wide, from Disney World to NASA to the beautiful beaches and wildlife, there is no reason a Floridian shouldn’t be given strong consideration. And what great timing: the Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa in August 2012. It’s time for Florida to rally around one of its own.
10. Jeb is the most formidable candidate we have. Picture him right now on stage in a debate with the other Republicans in the race. They don’t even come close. I bet within a few weeks of his first day in the race, half of the field drops out to support him. So, why shouldn’t he run? Why wouldn’t Republicans elect him? And tell me: who else will be better able to defeat Obama next November?
For Jeb Bush, it’s now or never.