February 15, 2016
When Jeb Bush announced his campaign for the presidency journalists wondered how he would deal with the charges that he was only extending the family dynasty. The answer was not long in coming. It soon became clear. He would run as his own man on his own record, not as a son or brother of a president. His campaign was “JEB!” not Jeb Bush.
Leadership is the single most important characteristic that voters look for in a president.
That is why Richard Nixon had to break from the popular Dwight Eisenhower when he ran for president on his own in 1960. It is why Hubert Humphrey broke from Lyndon Johnson in 1968, Walter Mondale from Jimmy Carter in 1984 and George H.W. Bush from Ronald Reagan in 1988.
No matter how popular Reagan was, George H.W. Bush knew that he had to be his own man. He could not be elected president because he was loyal to Ronald Reagan and was next in line. He could only be elected if he were seen as a leader.
In this cycle, Jeb Bush not only had to be his own man, standing on his own record, he also had to distance himself from an unpopular president, George W. Bush, discredited in history by some who believe he had left the world in a mess. Jeb knew that winning the GOP nomination would mean nothing if he could not win the general election, which meant winning the votes of people who disapproved of his brother.
So why does this same Jeb Bush, this week, now embrace that very same brother on the campaign trail in South Carolina?
When a figure becomes controversial, as in the case of George W. Bush, the hard core who remain supportive become stubbornly supportive. When Nixon’s numbers dropped to only 19% during the Watergate crisis, there they stayed and nothing that happened would move them any lower. That 19% would go to the grave with Nixon. So today, George W. Bush, an unpopular president, has a hardcore that will support him with unshakeable tenacity. The more he is demeaned in the national media, the more they dig in their heels.
Many of those supporters are veterans who drive the vote in South Carolina. Many of those supporters are born again Christians who admire George, a fellow believer, not Jeb, who is a convert to Catholicism.
To win in South Carolina Jeb Bush does not need to get 51% of the American vote. He could very well win with only 1% of that vote. Which in this case would represent 20% of the South Carolina, Republican Primary voters.
This is crunch time. All of Jeb Bush’s grand strategy for winning the general election is out the window. Now he has to show something in the South Caroline primary or be swept from the field of battle. If he can come second or third in South Carolina, his money will allow him to compete in the crucial SEC primary to come.
If Donald Trump wins South Carolina, the road becomes much harder for Bush. He may very well drop out. But there are also reasons to stay the course. Trump has not been fully vetted. Keep in mind, no businessman have ever made the distance. They have too many skeletons in the closet. If Trump falls, and voters became skittish about taking any more chances, Bush would be seen as a reliable choice. But only if he were still trudging along in the race.
After that, if by some miracle he actually wins the GOP nomination, he has time to slip George W. Bush back into the shadows and just be JEB! once again.
The Jeb Bush campaign was always a long shot. But with Hillary in the race he had to try. At any other time he would be dismissed as selfishly extending the family dynasty. But with Hillary Clinton in the race, how can the Democrat controlled mainstream media complain about a family dynasty?