Jeb Bows Out, Thune Prepping While Santorum Heads to Iowa

Dubbed the "the candidate hiding in plain sight" and deemed by many especially among mainline conservatives and neo-conservatives as perhaps the best hope for the GOP to win back the White House, former two term Florida Governor Jeb Bush today quashed speculation that had been building in recent weeks that he was considering a presidential run in 2012.

The argument for Jeb Bush ran something like this: each of the other presumed front runners have obvious perhaps fatal flaws and thus only Jeb Bush can pull together the disparate threads of the GOP. Moreover, he has strong conservative credentials, is the only Republican ever to win two terms of the Sunshine state, has a political pedigree second to none even if tarnished by his older brother, can appeal to the all-important Hispanic population with his Mexican-born wife in tow, is perceived as less divisive on social issues who would thus appeal to independents, would do well in his home state that electoral vote rich battleground state that has often decided presidential elections and unlike older brother can speak in complete sentences.

Despite the growing speculation that he was at least considering a run in 2012, today when asked Louisville’s ABC affiliate WHAS following an event for Rand Paul if he was eying the White House, Jeb Bush was adamant. “I am not running for president,” he said.

Politico has more on Jeb Bush's denial of interest.

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Bushes and Clintons

Today's Politico has a piece on the presidential aspirations of Jeb Bush, who some say would be a leading contender were it not for his last name (leaving aside, of course, whether he would have ever been Governor of Florida in the first place had it not been for his last name). But one part of the article particularly stood out to me:

Alex Castellanos, a longtime GOP consultant who worked on Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns and is still in touch with his old client, argued that the family brand could be rehabilitated for Jeb just as it was for Hillary Clinton after her husband’s presidency.

I'm not at all sure what Castellanos is talking about. In what way was the Clinton brand "rehabilitated" by Hillary Clinton? In what way was it in need of rehabilitation?

Look through the polling. I have. Every single poll during the waning days of the Clinton administration found the 42nd President to be wildly popular. Just how popular? A 66 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll of the Clinton presidency. A 66 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 64 percent approval rating in the final CNN/Time poll. A 61 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll. A 68 percent approval rating in the final CBS poll. A 62 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. These were numbers requiring "rehabilitat[ion]"?

What did George W. Bush's numbers look like now? A 33 percent approval rating in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll in January 2009. A 31 percent approval rating in the final CNN poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Fox News poll. A 27 percent approval rating in the final NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. A 34 percent approval rating in the final Gallup poll. A 24 percent approval rating in the final Pew poll.

Look even more recently. The latest polling from ABC News and The Post finds 59 percent blaming George W. Bush for the current economic woes in the country, and just 25 percent blaming Barack Obama.

Notice any difference between the Bush brand in 2009-2010 and the Clinton brand in 2001?

What's more, look at Jeb Bush's national numbers. They're old. But they aren't good.

But if the GOP genuinely thinks Jeb Bush is the way to success in 2012, and that he will be embraced after George W. Bush's presidency in the way that Hillary Clinton was embraced after Bill Clinton's presidency, all the better for them.

How far will the GOP go for the Latino vote?

From the Restore Fairness blog.

In the 2008 Presidential Election, Republicans won only 31% of the Latino vote, down from 40% of Latino votes they had four years earlier when George Bush took office for the second time. And based on exit polls, it seems apparent that the Hispanic vote played a large part in President Obama’s Electoral College victory and win over John McCain. Add to this the fact that from 1998 to 2008 the number of Latinos eligible to vote rose by 21% (from 16.1 million to 19.5 million), and factor in estimates that say that by 2050 the Hispanic population is expected to increase by 200% and you get a reasonable explanation why Republicans are beginning to panic about how to ensure support from the Latino community. Now that Republicans have woken up to the fact that they desperately need to secure Hispanic support, the question is how they intend to go about doing this, and whether they have it in them to go beyond the surface and address issues that resonate deeply with the Latino community.

Earlier this month, America’s Voice brought out a report that spotlights the growing power of the Latino electorate and suggests that candidates in all political races should keep a close eye on the issues that influence the Latino vote if they intend to remain viable in the House and Senate elections for 2010. The report, The Power of the Latino Vote in America, gives a detailed account of Latino voting trends, identifies 40 Congressional races across 11 states where Latinos are likely to made a huge impact in the November elections, and makes a strong argument for how deeply the issue of immigration reform will affect the Hispanic vote.

While it rates the economy as the top-most issue for the Hispanic population, the report makes it clear that immigration reform has played a key role in how the Latino voters made their choices in 2008, and will continue to do so. The report says,

Polling of Latino voters shows that the Republican Party’s image has been severely damaged by GOP lawmakers’ demagoguery on the issue, and that the vast majority of Latinos simply will not vote for a candidate who advocates mass deportation instead of comprehensive immigration reform…Politicians of both parties also need to approach the issue responsibly during their election campaigns. Heated rhetoric coupled with unrealistic policy solutions like mass deportation will turn off both the crucial Latino voting bloc and other swing voters, who are tired of Washington policymakers talking tough, but delivering little.

But life isn’t hunky dory for Democrats either. Moving forward, the report tells us that while Hispanics have been tending towards the Democrats for years, taking the Latino vote for granted would be a huge fallacy on the part of Democrat candidates. The recent victory of GOP candidate Scott Brown over Democrat Martha Coakley in Massachusetts was attributed to the fact that Coakley failed to reach out to the Latino vote base, and works as a good warning to Democrats who must show leadership and work towards ensuring that their campaign promises be kept in order to keep the support of the powerful Hispanic voter base. Moreover, the Latino-swing constituency, comprising of foreign born, naturalized U.S. citizens of Latino descent who represent about 40% of the Latino population, tend to be favorable to some of the Republican ideals such as the emphasis on “family values.”

On the day of it’s release, Janet Murguia, President and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, wrote an article in the Huffington Post in which she prescribed that this report should be bedside reading for any politician in America today. And looking at the activities within a segment of the Republican party in the past few weeks, it looks like many have taken her advice quite seriously. Tea Party extremism aside, a number of Republican candidates in states such as California and Texas, seem to have adopted a more favorable attitude towards immigration reform in order to gain the support of the large Hispanic voter bases. In Texas, George P. Bush, an attorney of Mexican descent and son of Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has founded a political action committee, The Hispanic Republicans of Texas, aimed to promote Hispanics running for office. A number of Republican party strategists are researching social and economic issues that affect the Latino community. And in order to bridge the gap between the Hispanic community and Republican ideals, the Christian group, The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, plans to spend $500,000 on helping pro-immigration Republican candidates and promote conservative values in the Latino community.

Running a focus group that is researching economic and social issues that face the Latino community, Former Republican National Committee Chairman, Ed Gillespie wants to reach out to Hispanic voters on issues that are important to them. Gillespie blames the loss of Latino support on past “Republican rhetoric,” and says that the key lies in changing the “tone and body language” when addressing the issue of immigration.

We have to make clear to Latino voters that we care as much about welcoming legal immigrants into our country as we do about keeping illegal ones out.

Actions speak louder than words. So while the new GOP language on immigration is evident when Sarah Palin said on Fox News that conservatives needed to be “welcoming and inviting to immigrants” and recognize that “immigrants built this great country,” a lot more than that is necessary before the tides turn. When Republicans stop blocking all immigration reform bills introduced in the Senate and the House, then we will talk.

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FL-Sen-GOP: Jeb Bush Sons Oppose Charlie Crist

Republican former Governor Jeb Bush, who remains a popular figure among Florida Republicans, has two sons, George P. and Jeb Jr..  Back in February, George P. Bush offered a stinging rebuke of current Gov. and 2010 Senate candidate Charlie Crist's lack of conservative cred:

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is only a "light" version of a Democrat, former Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) son claimed Saturday.

"There's some in our party that want to assume that government is the answer to all of our problems," Bush said at a meeting of young Republicans, as reported by the Orlando News. "You know who I'm talking about," he added, referencing Crist.

After the speech, Bush said Crist is perhaps becoming more of a "D light" politician, not adequately in line with Republican politics.

Fast forward three months and Jeb Bush's other son, Jeb Jr., announces his endorsement of Charlie Crist's 2010 Republican Senate primary opponent, former state House Speaker Marco Rubio:

Today I would like to let you know that I will be enthusiastically supporting my friend Marco Rubio for his bid for the United States Senate.

Florida and our country are at a crossroads. Not only in our economic life, but in who we are as Republicans. ...

With Marco, we have a great opportunity to elect a true conservative and a greater obligation to elect a man of principle. ...

If you can make a donation today to keep this effort going it will go a long way to bring back common sense and a return to conservative principles in Washington.

According to Jeb Jr., Republicans are at a "crossroads" over their identity and Rubio is the only "true conservative" in the race who can return "conservative principles" to Washington.  Read: Charlie Crist does not represent the Republican Party.

I can't imagine that these statements from Jeb's boys go out without Daddy Jeb's blessing.  Make no mistake, former Governor Jeb Bush does not want his gubernatorial successor to win the Republican nomination for Senate.  Further, couple the support of Jeb's boys for Rubio with the recent endorsement of Mike Huckabee for Rubio and we see the underdog picking up steam.  Anybody rushing to anoint Charlie Crist as Florida's next Senator better slow down.  Conservatives still run the GOP, and Charlie Crist simply isn't up to snuff.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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Here Comes Jeb!

Today the GOP is launching a re-branding effort, what they're calling the National Council for a New America. The purpose of the group is to "produce GOP ideas on issues like education and health care" and I suppose try to convince us that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they're still relevant, God dammit!

According to the press release:

"The NCNA will be a dynamic, forward-looking organization that will amplify the common-sense and wisdom of our fellow citizens through a grassroots dialogue with Republican leaders."

Yes, it's very forward thinking. Just look at the Republican up-and-comers involved:

It will involve an outreach by an interesting mix of GOP officials, ranging from 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor and the younger brother of the man many Republicans blame for the party's battered brand: former President George W. Bush.

In addition to Sen. McCain and Gov. Bush, GOP sources familiar with the plans tell CNN others involved in the new group's "National Panel Of Experts" will include:

*Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former national GOP chairman
*Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
*Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

Putting aside the rather...interesting strategy of using the old white dude who lost their last presidential election to try to brand the GOP as hip, new and fresh, I think I'm most intrigued by the inclusion of Jeb Bush in this line-up. Bush has consistently and wisely laid low since leaving the governor's mansion in 2007, mindful of Bush fatigue. But Jeb was always the ambitious one. He was always the one who was going to be president. So it's hard not to look at his re-emergence here as strategically significant, perhaps an attempt to position himself for a Senate run next year. Could Bush's involvement with NCNA be a sort of trial run, to see whether people are ready for another Bush on the national stage? As I wrote on Monday, Chris Cillizza is reporting that Jeb's successor, Charlie Crist, is a "near lock" to run for Senate and will be announcing by May 5. Jeb already had to subsume his own presidential ambitions for his younger brother. It's hard to believe that Jeb would now be willing to let his younger...and tanner...governor step on what could be his one shot at the Senate.

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