Jeb Bush’s Presidential Failure
On June 15, 2015, former Florida governor Jeb Bush formally announced his intention to run for president.
What is intriguing about Bush’s failure in vying for the Republican presidential bid is that for years, it was assumed that Bush would run for president and that when he did, he would surely be “a strong presidential contender.” However, the reality is that not only was Bush not a strong contender; according to RealClearPolitics’ polls of the contenders for the Republican nomination, Bush never secured a solid lead.
Moreover, even as his candidacy was formally announced, the Bush campaign was already showing signs that Bush would not be the frontrunner that many believed he would be.
For example, according to CNN’s Peter Hanby and Chris Moody, Bush was already facing a decent rivalry as he entered the race– even from Democratic hopeful, Hillary Clinton:
But for all his name recognition, Bush isn’t entering the race as a clear front-runner. A national CNN/ORC Poll released earlier this month found him virtually tied at the top of the field with Sen. Marco Rubio, a fellow Floridian. Behind them, 10% of those polled said they planned to support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
When matched against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Bush trails 51% to 43%.
The above is interesting in hindsight given that the Jeb! Bush undoing was South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s February 17, 2016, endorsement of Rubio.
But Bush’s problems did not begin with Rubio.
As Hanby and Moody point out, one of Bush’s starting-gate liabilities was his own name. It seems that America is not keen on having a third Bush in the White House:
With his brother’s presidency still deeply polarizing in the mind of the electorate, and foreign policy once again rising as a top public concern, his campaign will test the nation’s appetite for another Republican named Bush. The June CNN/ORC Poll found that 56% of respondents said his connection to two former presidents would make them less likely to support his campaign.
America does not want another Bush.
What America does want is reality television– and in this campaign for the Republican bid, that it what it is getting– in Donald Trump.
The day after Jeb Bush formally announced his intention to run, billionaire businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump announced his own intention to run for president.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, introduced him. In her introduction, she stated, “My father is the opposite of ‘politically correct.'”
The reality TV appeal.
The week of July 9, 2016, Trump began leading in the Republican presidential nomination national polls. Rarely has any other Republican contender overtaken his lead since– and Bush never did.
As of February 22, 2016, Trump was leading in the Republican nomination polls by an average of 13.2 points.
It isn’t money. Bush had the money– his super-PAC spent $130 million in eight months. But on February 24, 2016, in his first news appearance since dropping out, Bush told his donors that “outsiders” were to blame for his bombed campaign. As NBC’s Alex Jaffe reports:
Jeb Bush told donors Wednesday afternoon that he had seen a path to victory “from the very beginning” of his campaign but was unexpectedly stymied by “outsiders making a compelling case to people who are deeply disaffected and angry.”
“I’m sorry that it didn’t turn out the way that I intended. When I launched the campaign in front of 3-4,000 people in Miami, I anticipated a different result,” an audibly disappointed Bush told donors on a national finance team call scheduled to thank them for their support.
He also said he plans to “do whatever I can now as a private citizen” to help nominate a conservative that can win the White House.
Trumped by Trump.
Bush is not used to being “stymied.” His Florida education reform legislation is used as model legislation for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). In 2012, he talked ALEC into reversing its 2011 resolution against the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). In fact, former ALEC education task force director, David Myslinski, was the spokesman supporting the ALEC “silent support” for CCSS; Myslinski changed jobs and became Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE) spokesperson. (Myslinski switched jobs again; he now works for one of the CCSS inside groups, Achieve.)
FEE and ALEC were so close that FEE and ALEC conventions have been set so that one followed the other in the same location. (For more on FEE, ALEC, and Jeb, see my book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education.)
Jeb Bush was a man who called the corporate reform shots.
Jeb Bush used to run another nonprofit, Chiefs for Change (C4C), comprised of state superintendents who did Jeb’s bidding. In October 2011, Bush called on C4C to help finance the Louisiana state board election in order to shift power in favor of having former Teach for America (TFA) executive, John White, appointed as Louisiana state superintendent.
And about that Bush-love for CCSS: He thought he could continue to call the shots there, as well.
In November 2014, he was willing to go Republican presidential rogue for CCSS:
Even before the 2016 presidential campaign truly begins, division lines between Jeb Bush and his potential foes in the Republican primary already have been drawn.
The former Florida governor signaled in a Washington speech Thursday that he is prepared to fight the base in his own party over the increasingly unpopular Common Core education standards, arguing that they are vital to improving the quality of education and, by extension, improving children’s chances to succeed in today’s economy.
Nine months later– and after Trump was well into overshadowing Bush in the polls– Bush called CCSS “poisonous”:
Jeb Bush on Friday called the name of the controversial education standards he has long supported “poisonous,” illustrating how damaging the program has become in the political dialogue and in his own eyes.
“The term ‘Common Core’ is so darn poisonous, I don’t even know what it means,” Bush said while campaigning at the Iowa State Fair, in response to a question on the standards before a gathering of fairgoers.
Bush’s support for Common Core – standards adopted by 43 states that aim to ensure students’ proficiency in English and math – has dogged him repeatedly on the campaign trail….
Bush apparently thought that his wanting CCSS would have been enough– like it was in 2012 before ALEC. But the public is the public– it is not ALEC. It is not FEE, or C4C.
It seems that Bush is in shock over his inability to command the Republican nomination. He blames Trump. He also takes a shot at the press. Despite Bush’s ample funding, Trump has dominated the press. As Jaffe reports on February 24, 2016:
Bush told donors he was “amazed at the press coverage of the campaign, and the lack of reality to how, at least, I felt the campaign was.”
From his perspective, Bush said, voters were more interested in policy substance and solutions than the horserace coverage of the primary.
“At least, the people I was hanging out with, they’re a lot more concerned about the student loan problem than they were about who was winning or who was losing. They were concerned about, how do we get…jobs back into our country, much more about that than they were about the latest insult in the campaign,” he said.
Bush might have commanded his own ALEC-FEE-C4C reality. But he just could not buy that other reality– the one with the public, and press, and endorsements.
The one that mattered for 1600 in ’16.