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Has Baggage Crushed Jeb Bush's 2016 Hopes?

October 17, 2013 - 6:00pm

Jeb Bush is being weighed down with baggage as he considers running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, some of it beyond his control but some of it of his own making.

Despite being more conservative than his father or brother, Bush is hampered by his family legacy. Five years after his presidency, George W. Bush remains a political pariah even with his fellow Republicans. The former president didnt attend the Republican National Convention last year and nobody seemed to miss him. The likes of Ted Cruz and Rand Paul go out of their way to disassociate themselves with George W. Bushs policies.

Nor are there signs of a revival any time soon. Twenty-five years after Ronald Reagan left the White House, Republicans still claim his legacy. George H.W. Bush launched political dynasties in two states. Even Gerald Ford seemed to bounce back as members of his administration like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld resurfaced in George W. Bushs White House. But George W. Bushs legacy? Republicans continue to see him as an albatross around their necks.

But theres more than family connections weighing down Jeb Bushs hopes in 2016. Jeb Bush has been outspoken on two issues that set him at odds with the Republican base. No Republican politician has gone to bat for Common Core as much as the former Florida governor. Conservatives have pushed back against Common Core with a ferocity which surprised establishment Republicans who helped create those education standards. Jeb Bush shows no signs of backing down on his support of the standards. If he enters the presidential race, the tea party and other likely Republicans primary voters will remember where Jeb Bush stands on Common Core.

Jeb Bush has also been an outspoken critic of Arizonas immigration law and a supporter of immigration reform. Most Republican primary voters, especially in Iowa which has the first caucus, are on the other side here.

Looking to counter these weaknesses, Jeb Bush can point to his eight years of running Tallahassee as a conservative. With the exception of Common Core, conservatives will find much to applaud in the former governors record on education. Jeb Bush also has the advantage of staying clear from Washington during the shutdown battle. Florida is still the largest swing state in the nation and Jeb Bush remains strong in the Sunshine State.

But these might not be enough to help Jeb Bush move past Paul, Cruz, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republican 2016 field. Complicating things is an old ally from Florida, Marco Rubio, who could also run in 2016.

In retrospect, Jeb Bushs presidential chances might have been determined 20 years ago. In the Bush family, it was assumed Jeb and not George W. would be the future president. But in 1994, George W. Bush beat Ann Richards while Lawton Chiles beat Jeb. This gave George W. a head start over his brother. All these years later, Jeb Bush has some major obstacles to following in his fathers and brothers footsteps to the White House.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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