Archives: Jeb Bush should quit the GOP and run for president as an independent

Originally published in November 2012
Simon Nguyen

Speculations are swirling over a possible Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential run, after the National Review reported he met with several former staffers in the nation’s capital. This was preceded by a NYT article that raised that possibility the former Florida governor would run for president.  If Bush does make a bid for the presidency, he is better off abandoning the GOP in favor of an independent candidacy, as his moderate image will likely be a liability in the Republican primaries.

There is a reason why moderate Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, Jon Hunstman and Tim Pawlenty could not even make it through the GOP presidential primaries. Even after two successive presidential election defeats, the structures of the Republican Party remain very static. While the Bush’s namesake will give the former governor mainstream recognition, it won’t help him win critical primary contests. To capture the Republican nomination, Bush will have to win over key conservative coalitions such as Grover Norquist’s voters and the tea party.

The only way Bush could accomplish this would be to emulate Mitt Romney’s sharp turn to the extreme right. Bush will likely have to reverse many of his moderate stances including his support for the DREAM Act, which is strongly opposed by the tea party and many conservative groups. If the governor chooses this route, he could win the nomination but will be facing the same problems Romney encountered in the general election.

A better option for Gov. Bush would be to distance himself from the Republican Party and run for president as an independent.  If he runs as an independent, he will instantly become the most viable third-party candidate since Ross Perot. Bush’s name identification and political connections should allow him to raise enough money to compete with candidates from the two major parties. It is a good possibility that disenfranchised moderate Republicans would throw their support to him.

Obviously, many factors will have to cooperate for a Bush’s independent candidacy to work. But if the economy does not improve and the Republican Party is still a shambled mess four years from now, the former governor will be seen a strong alternative to the status quo.

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