Jeb Bush: four things you should know about the Republican heavyweight | Americas | North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 15.06.2015

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Jeb Bush: four things you should know about the Republican heavyweight

Jeb Bush's expected announcement that he will make a run for the presidency instantly makes him the most widely known Republican candidate. Despite his prominence there are four key misconceptions about him.

If the general public would put together a fact sheet about Jeb Bush it would probably go something like this: He is the heir apparent of the Bush political dynasty. He is very wealthy and the former governor of Florida. He speaks Spanish and his wife hails from Mexico. He is politically moderate, especially compared to his brother George W. Bush. Unlike many in his party, he supports immigration reform. He is the odds-on favorite to get the Republican nomination and after eight years of a Democratic president is also likely to win the general election.

Much of that imaginary fact sheet is fully or partly accurate. But there are at least four important misconceptions about Bush and his chances to win the nomination or the presidency.

1. Jeb Bush is a moderate.

Judging by his political record of eight years as the governor of Florida - the only elected office he has held - Bush clearly qualifies as a staunch conservative by US standards. "Jeb Bush is not a moderate. He is a very strong conservative and was as governor," Daniel Smith, professor of political science at the University of Florida, told DW.

During his tenure, added Smith, Bush lobbied hard for the privatization of public education, but also tried to privatize prisons and public transportation. "It's not only free market liberalism, but trying to crack down on public sector unions, trying to reduce the public sector broadly," said Smith. "It's Thatcherism."

Lance deHaven-Smith, a Florida State University scholar on state politics who has written a book about the contested presidential election of 2000, said Bush has tried to stake out a moderate position since leaving office. But in Florida, said deHaven-Smith, "he was a very conservative governor."

Bildergalerie amerikanische Präsidenten

On domestic policy Jeb is more conservative than his brother

Bush's push to end affirmative action in the state also puts him squarely in the conservative camp. "He is not very sensitive to minority issues,"said Smith. "When he was elected as governor and he was asked what he was going to do for African-Americans he responded, I think truthfully,'nothing.'"

Even when compared to the much-maligned George W. Bush, Jeb is arguably the more conservative one of the Bush brothers, legendary Democratic strategist Bob Shrum told DW: "He is probably in domestic policy concerns more conservative than his brother was. He would be similar to his brother in terms of the neoconservative foreign policy advice he would take."

2. Jeb Bush has a lock on the Republican nomination

To be sure, Jeb Bush is the candidate to beat to win the Republican ticket. He will have the most money to spend, is the favorite of the party establishment and has the political and operational connections of the Bush family. Earlier that would have been more than enough to have the Republican nomination guaranteed. Not anymore.

"Bush is going to test a proposition that has held true in the Republican Party for 50 years," said Shrum, who advised Al Gore and John Kerry on their presidential campaigns. "And that is that the Republicans always nominate the next guy in line, the person they are supposed to nominate. That's gotten harder and harder recently which each passing election cycle."

USA/ Demo/Washington/ Einwanderungsreform

On immigration policy Jeb Bush is at odds with his party

George W. Bush clinched the nomination fairly easily in 2000, while John McCain had a much tougher time in 2008. "And for heaven's sake Mitt Romney, the choice of the establishment and clearly the next person in line, had to fight a bitter rear-end battle with Rick Santorum who was not a plausible president," said Shrum. "So it's possible that the establishment will lose its control over the Republican Party this time."

To be sure, compared to the Republican field of presidential hopefuls, Bush is easily as presidential as any of them, noted Smith. "He certainly has all the credentials that Americans look for in a president. Whether or not they want another Bush is the big question."

3. Bush's campaign prowess is insurmountable

Jeb Bush ran his last campaign in 2002. In today's media and data-driven politics that is a long time. "He's rusty," said Smith. That does not mean that with his financial advantage and family backing he can not adapt, but it means that he must learn quickly and hire the right people to guide him. Perhaps more challenging for him is the fact that Jeb Bush is no natural born politician.

"My simple theory of American politics is, 'you gotta like people to get elected president,'" said deHaven-Smith. "You gotta like them a lot. Bill Clinton liked them too much, I guess. I think this will be a problem for Jeb Bush."

He is not a people person. "He is a policy wonk," said Smith. "He is very studious, gets very deeply into the details of issues," said Shrum. "It's not clear to me that he will have an emotional connection with his Republican primary voters and caucus goers."

4. Jeb Bush is the favorite in a race against Hillary Clinton

Even after eight years of Barack Obama, it is not a given that the next president will be a Republican.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton will be tough to beat for Jeb Bush

"Jeb is not big a vote getter," said deHaven-Smith. "People I think overestimate his popularity in Florida." While he was elected governor twice, it was always in so-called off-years, when there are no presidential elections and many Democrats in the state do not turn out. That's different in a presidential race. "I think the idea that he will simply carry Florida because he was governor here is mistaken," said deHaven-Smith. It's also uncertain how the cerebral Bush will fare in key places like Iowa that require a so called retail-style of campaigning, essentially connecting with locals and wooing the local press corps.

What's more, key fundamentals clearly also favor the Democrats. "The Republican Party has backed itself into a demographic cul-de-sac," noted Shrum. "It has very little appeal to millenials and younger voters, very little appeal to single women who constitute a big part of the electorate and it has alienated Hispanics by its positions on immigration reform." Compounding those trends is the fact that the all-important electoral college - the very peculiar American way of choosing a president - #link: the Democrats in 2016. "When you look at it all if Hillary Clinton is the nominee, I think she will win," predicts Shrum.

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