Behind-the-Scenes Preparation Paying Off for Jeb

Feb 7, 2015 by

Jeb Bush is doing everything right so far in orchestrating a bid to become president.

Regardless of where you are on the political spectrum, it’s hard to argue with that statement. This is neither an endorsement nor a case for him running. It is, however, an acknowledgement that he is masterfully handling the treacherous grounds of entering the race for the White House.

One has to be impressed by the way it is all coming together before he officially announces a run. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t run for office since 2002 nor held office since 2006.

Of course it doesn’t hurt to have two family members who have between them launched four presidential campaigns — three successfully. And that being a member of the Bush Family brings tremendous name recognition, financial resources and a who’s who of Republican operatives to the table.

But along with the benefits of being a Bush come the liabilities — an unpopular war, an economic recession and general Bush fatigue.

Many observers didn’t believe Jeb would run. It was widely reported that his wife Columba and daughter Noelle did not enjoy being in the spotlight while Jeb served as governor of Florida. And his mother, the former First Lady, publicly opined that someone other than a Bush should run in 2016. She has since softened that stance and, according to Jeb, so have the other women in his life.

So in just a few short months, Jeb has addressed some of the perceived obstacles head-on. He has addressed the family opposition and has differentiated himself from his brother in a respectful way.

Jeb has set the stage for a different strategy that downplays the importance of some of the early state contests like Iowa where he is less likely to win due to his propensity to throw facts and figures rather than red meat. He has unapologetically defended his positions on Common Core and immigration that don’t play well with the Republican base.

His style is in sharp contrast with Mitt Romney, who frequently adapted his positions to appease the vocal members of the base in the party. In the end that malleability might have turned voters off more than their disagreement with Romney on a few issues.

The pundits would have you believe that Jeb occupies the moderate turf in the Republican Party, but that would be misleading. There was no mistaking Jeb’s conservative record as governor of Florida on both social and fiscal issues.

His positions on Common Core and immigration might be driving the moderate label but Jeb’s efforts to reform immigration are both practical and politically good for the party long-term.

Jeb commented some time back that his father and Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be welcome in the current Republican Party. Those words resonated with a lot of Republicans who felt the party tent was shrinking and becoming less welcoming.

Naturally Jeb is embraced by much of the establishment. His likely path to the Republican nomination is winning that spot against candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, while the other candidates fight for the tea party and religious right factions of the party.

By stating his intentions to explore a run, setting up a money-raising machine and recruiting top-notch consultants and fundraisers, he has already chased Romney out of the race.

Jeb helped candidates throughout the country during the last election cycle and has released 200,000 emails from his time as governor, giving the national media a glimpse into how he governed.

Behind the scenes, Jeb is putting together a strong organization. He is tying up national campaign talent and money. He’s picking up endorsements and big names. He is selectively choosing where to appear, whom to give interviews to and which issues to weigh in on. He is not getting overexposed and has refrained from speaking ill of his potential Republican opponents — even as some are taking early shots at him.

He is answering tough questions about his past — yes, he smoked marijuana, and, yes, he had a bad attitude and got bad grades at prep school.

He is creating the perception that he would start off as the front-runner. He is crafting his image as the capable, responsible, solutions-based, unifying adult in the room — something sorely lacking in Washington.

Polls show he can win Florida — a crucial swing state that President Obama won twice.

Jeb still enjoys the loyalty of those who first signed up with him in the 1990s. He maintains a cadre of committed supporters who are choosing him over both Florida’s U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Romney — two other candidates they staunchly supported.

Jeb may well stumble along the way, but as of now, strategically he is running a picture-perfect presidential campaign.

Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland. She can be reached at PBDockery@gmail.com.



All columns are (c) Paula Dockery | No reprint rights to whole columns are ever granted without express permission. | To syndicate Paula Dockery's columns please write to PBDockery@gmail.com

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