Like it or not, it's no wonder Jeb Bush is emerging as the Republican Party's 2016 frontrunner.
Of course, there is that awkward little name thing, something he seems fully aware of -- despite only being in the exploratory phase of a potential campaign, Jeb has already declared he's not just another Bush. "A lot of people know my dad, they know my brother. As in everybody's family, we're all a little different," he reportedly told a crowd in Las Vegas
And he seems to keep trying to distance himself from his family. "Do you have brothers and sisters? Are you exactly the same?" he insisted. Yet Jeb is banking hard on the same vault of donors and operatives his father George H. W Bush and his brother George W. Bush used in their presidential campaigns. He's already raising lots of money, asking donors recently
not to give more than a still eye-popping $1 million to his super PAC. "They didn't need to be persuaded," Howard Leach, a Republican fundraiser for Jeb, told the Washington Post.
So, what exactly is in a name like Bush? Apparently, a whole lot of cash, which helps win presidential nominations and elections. And if Jeb wins the nomination in 2016, it will likely be less "joyfully," as he promised last year, than ruthlessly. After all, we're still more than 18 months from the election and Jeb's locking in many of the same kinds of consultants that worked with his brother and father.
"Those who hold out can sense a distinct chill," noted a recent New York Times article
. Jeb's campaign is seeking to hire "donors, advisors and operatives," wrote the Times, with "deep connections to the Bush family's past presidential campaigns and administrations." Those same family members from whom Jeb swears he's different?
And if consultants don't abide by Jeb's rules of loyalty and decide to work with other 2016 Republican aspirants? "Swift rebuke follows," the Times notes, pointing to the example of IMGE, a technology company that reportedly fell out of favor with the Bush campaign after one of the firm's founders indicated IMGE was hoping not to be tied to a single candidate.
None of this is to suggest that Jeb Bush doesn't have appeal as a candidate -- I like some of the things he did as Florida governor, like his record of cutting $19 billion in taxes
and supporting school choice programs. (Although I'm not a fan of his willingness to grant illegal immigrants amnesty in any shape, fashion or form.) He seems more equipped to lead America and get things done than some others in the already cramped horse race like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who seems more concerned with telling people off than sounding presidential.
Then there's Rick Santorum and Huckabee, caring Christian men, but both too consumed with running for president of morality than bringing the entire country together after years of Obama supposedly dividing us on race, religion and sexuality.
But what troubles me a little about Bush's early attempts at "corning the market" is that he's relying on the same consultants that have cycled through the last 20-plus years of elections -- some of whom worked for Romney's campaign
. This raises the question of why, if Jeb doesn't want the public to view him as just another Bush running for president, he seems to be relying on the Bush network of consultants?
The same playbook that helped get his brother and father get elected president isn't going to work for this Bush. The demographics of the country have changed, but it seems unlikely the Republican Party and its operatives have changed with it.
The truth is that any Republican candidate who wins the nomination will have to refrain from business as usual. He (let's face it, the GOP won't nominate a woman) will have to hire minorities and women in meaningful campaign positions and have a strategy to aggressively compete for minority votes. This is something Romney didn't do nearly enough of.
Jeb is only in the "pre-presidential" phase, ruminating over the idea. But he appears to be assembling a lot of the same old (white) faces of recent losing Republican campaigns we've seen before. As a black conservative who would like to see a Republican in the White House again, I hope Jeb isn't Romney 2.0.