When I consider the 2012 Presidential election, I’m reminded that someone once said that there are really only two election themes: “Wonderful New World” and “Back to Basics.” We cycle between these in politics, just as we cycle between our two major political parties.
Barack Obama’s election was the definition of the “Wonderful New World” campaign, with Change and Hope becoming gods that seemed destined to bring about a post-racial, post-partisan utopia. And, in that sense, Barack Obama was right to compare himself to Ronald Reagan, who ran the most recent Wonderful New World campaign with his theme of Morning in America and his followers calling the election the “Reagan Revolution.” JFK’s and FDR’s campaigns were equally transformational.
When the pendulum swings too far in one direction, however, the public inevitably wants it to swing back. “Miss Me Yet?” merchandise is extremely popular, and the public has had its fill of change, as every poll testifies.
In this context, I’m reminded of the election of 1920. Warren Harding ran on a slogan of a “Return to Normalcy,” and he largely campaigned from his home in Marion, Indiana, inviting political leaders and the media to visit him there and rejecting the flamboyance of other political campaigns. He seemed very down to earth, and the public, exhausted by WWI, loved it and elected Harding with 60% of the vote.
It’s early, but the 2012 election is shaping up in similar fashion. Voters are going to want someone they can trust. They already know that they blew it in electing someone with as little experience as Barack Obama, and they are going to want a steady hand on the wheel to steer the ship of state into calmer waters. I think that this desire will accelerate if the situation with Iran gets out of control in the next two years, and I firmly believe that it will.
So I don’t think that the GOP should nominate a young candidate with exciting new ideas. It should nominate someone who can command the trust of the electorate while unifying the party. That candidate isn’t Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, or Sarah Palin, or any of the other also-rans of 2008. It definitely isn’t Newt Gingrich. On the other hand, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and John Thune all have some appeal and could make good candidates, but there are also some question marks and none of them specifically excite me.
So it was in the context of these thoughts that I realized who I wanted to run, and it shocked me. It’s this man:
Jeb was always the conservative of the Bush brothers — many activists (like me) wanted him to run in 2000 instead of his older brother. Even before his election as Florida’s governor, Jeb co-founded Florida’s first charter school. As governor, he was both a social and economic conservative and consistently worked to lower taxes and restrain spending.
Because Jeb was an extremely popular and successful governor of Florida, he would enter the 2012 general election with a key swing state already in his pocket.
Jeb’s wife Columba is Mexican, and Jeb speaks effortless Spanish. In his re-election in 2002, he received 56% of the hispanic vote, matching the 56% he won statewide. If that pattern were repeated in a nationwide campaign, it would put New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado solidly into the GOP column, and it might very well put California into play. A hispanic First Lady could help realign the country and bring hispanics (who are universally strong social conservatives) into the GOP where they belong.
Needless to say, fundraising would be effortless for a Jeb campaign. His own long donor list in Florida would be dwarfed by the massive fundraising structure that could quickly reassemble from his brother’s campaigns.
Most of all, Jeb is a proven commodity who would be trusted. Until the last six months, I would have thought that the Bush name would hurt Jeb’s chances of ever being elected President. As the “Miss Me?” signs and merchandise indicate, I don’t think so now. If President Obama’s weak foreign policy produces more problems with Iran and the Middle East, and if he continues to revert to a 9/10 position on terrorism, then a crisis in the Middle East or successful terror attack on the U.S. will increase the nostalgia for a President who was determined to protect the country. If unemployment is still near double digits in 2011 and the economy is weak, as I think it will be, then we’ll see even more of that.
Jeb is having a great year so far with his behind-the-scenes support of new conservative rock star Marco Rubio, and that support seems to be coming out into the open. Rubio’s backing in a Presidential bid, which Jeb would almost certainly receive, would be a powerful aid in persuading conservatives (who might be leery of Jeb’s last name) to climb aboard his campaign.
Jeb 2012! I wouldn’t have thought this even a few weeks ago, but I’m on board.