Setting the Stage for a Jeb Bush Draft in Tampa?

Jeb Bush

Republicans face a drawn-out nomination fight that could shred the party’s chances even against a vulnerable President Obama and Democratic under-ticket. But to the rescue last week came former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, a four-term Democrat who urges Republicans to nominate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Republicans are contending under new rules this year that increase the likelihood of a brokered convention when delegates assemble Aug. 27 in Tampa, Florida. Delegates are
selected this year on a more proportional basis than the winner-take-all formulas previously. They must vote only on the first ballot for pArtur Davisrimary and caucus winners, creating the potential for the kind of "brokered" conventions that were common in the past.

Two developments last week suggest that Bush is well-positioned to unite the party for a November ratification of the next stage of the Bush Dynasty:

First was a column by Davis, left, Alabama's most prominent Democrat until he lost his race for governor in 2010 amid suspicions he was getting too cozy with the state's business and Republican power brokers. On Jan. 24, he published in the National Review Online, "Draft Jeb Bush: A charismatic and accomplished governor can save the Republican Party."

Davis continued:

Enter the last dream date that Republicans may have at their disposal. His name is Jeb Bush, and this time, there is a feasibility around the idea that seemed unthinkable months ago. To be sure, the Jeb scenario will need more instability in order to flourish.

The likeliest path involves Gingrich's momentum carrying him through Florida; the February races in Arizona and Michigan dividing between Romney and Gingrich; Romney rebounding in March in moderate-leaning Midwestern states such as Illinois and Wisconsin; Gingrich winning easily in the Deep South on Super Tuesday and Texas in early April, with Romney proving equally strong in New York and the rest of the Atlantic coastline, while states like Ohio and Indiana fail to resolve the split.

Second, Bush published the next day an oped in the Washington Post, “Four ways Republicans can win Hispanics back."  Bush’s column underscored his stature as a party seer, above current elective battles. Also, his author's bio identified him as co-chair of the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference. The title hints at a Bush relationship with minorities, much like the Davis endorsement implied. The Hispanic Network is a center-right affiliate of the American Action Network, a mainstream GOP organization of power players. The parent group's leaders include former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, financier Frederic Malek and former Bush I White House Counsel Boyden Gray, whose connections include Freedom Works, which provides major funding for the Tea Party.

Davis became a friend of the older Obama when their attendance overlapped at Harvard Law School. But he disgraced himself in the eyes of many fellow Alabama Democrats. First, he failed as a member of the House Judiciary Committee to question the Bush Justice Department's political prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman and similar victims. Then Davis lost his gubernatorial primary in an especially inept way, as I reported for the Huffington Post, "Why Alabama Democrats Rejected Centrist Artur Davis, Obama's Pal." Davis left elective politics for private legal work, with a parting shot of denouncing his critics in Nixon-like fashion. Thus, the Davis enthusiasm for a Jeb Bush candidacy fits a pattern and complements Bush's Post column. Last week, Bush told CNN's John King, "I don't think a party can aspire to be the majority party if it's the old white guy party." The full interview video and transcript are here.

Is this just coincidence? Let's look more closely at reasons for Republicans to nominate Jeb Bush.

-- Newt Gingrich's ascendancy as the main rival to Mitt Romney guarantees fireworks, especially since Romney arguably started the nastiness with Super PAC ads that destroyed Gingrich in Iowa.

-- Gingrich may have irreparably harmed Romney by forcing disclosure of his tax returns and otherwise transforming his image from venture capitalist-job creator to "vulture predator" jobs-manipulator and tax avoider. Washington Post column Columnist Dana Milbank, for example, reported, "Gingrich is Obama's best surrogate."

-- But many in the Republican establishment are ganging up on Gingrich. Reflecting this, Post Chief Correspondent Dan Balz published, “Neither Romney nor Gingrich give GOP voters confidence of a White House win”  and “The GOP empire strikes back at Gingrich.”

-- The Citizens United decision and Super PACs make it easier for candidates to go negative in a big way with more ability to deny personal involvement than in the past.

-- At least as important as any of this, Republicans changed their nominating rules this year in ways that can extend the battle far longer than in the past. The much-touted January contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida provide relatively few delegates, in part because the big prize of Florida is diminished by a reduced total of delegates because Florida is penalized for an early primary. Later contests divide up delegates on a proportional basis, enabling hopeful losers to stay in the race.

The grudge-match dynamic emerging between Romney and Gingrich makes reconciliation there difficult. And the niche platforms of Ron Paul and Rick Santorum provide strong incentive for each of them and their supporters to extend their campaigns all the way to the convention, especially the better-financed Paul.
Jeb and George H>W. Bush and President Obama
More generally, pollster Stuart Rothenberg connected dots by describing the fear among Republican leaders for a potential missed opportunity next November: "Will GOP Risk Goldwater II with Newt Gingrich in 2012?"

You might be wondering why, if such a Draft Bush scenario is a possibility, it isn't it more prominent now. The answer is that it's not in the interests of the key players to describe their options. For one thing, the public would feel cheated if it becomes obvious too soon that the current debates, voting and other hoopla might not select the nominee. Therefore, Jeb Bush (or any other dark horse) must express interest only as a reluctant, last-minute volunteer drafted into public service by a grateful Republican Party, with the ideal climax cheering throngs in his home state as he launches a whirlwind campaign for the last two months with what his father once called, "The Big Mo."

In the meantime, George H.W. Bush and Jeb, his second son, had a chance to visit the White House the evening of Jan. 27. As portrayed above, they each look happy and comfortable. Should voters feel the same way in contemplating next November's election?




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Selected News Reports Referenced Above


Daily Mail, Top Republican at CPAC: Jeb Bush could emerge as nominee at a brokered convention, Tony Hardin, Feb. 10, 2012. 
Al Cardenas, head of the American Conservative Union, has said that Republican turmoil might lead to a brokered convention in which Jeb Bush, former Florida governor, would emerge as a “possible alternative” party nominee. Mr Cardenas, who is running this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), a gathering in Washington of some 10,000 conservatives, told MailOnline that it was not certain that one of the four current Republican candidates would emerge victorious. His comments came as Republicans fretted publicly about the perceived weaknesses of Mitt Romney, the establishment choice and frontrunner, Rick Santorum, surprise winner in three states on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.

Truthout, The Billionaires' Brokered GOP Convention, Greg Palast, Feb. 9, 2012. The  Plan is working. Mitt Romney's biggest backer didn't want him to win. We know that Paul "The Vulture" Singer, Romney's Daddy Warbucks, organized the "grassroots" campaign to replace Romney with Gov. Chris Christie back in September. That flopped, so Singer and the billionaire boys' club that courted Christie moved over to Romney. Not that they had a choice. They knew Moonrocks Gingrich, who thinks he's running for Master Jedi, and Saint Santorum who thinks he's running for pope, would end up road kill in November. But despite their million-dollar checks for Romney's campaign, the billionaires are handling the ex-governor with very long and slippery tweezers. The fact that Singer and the Koch brothers went on bended knee to Christie means they are just nauseated over Romney, a man losing a war with the English language and his own tax returns, carrying their standard against President Obama. These billionaires are smart men. Devious men. I've followed them for years, and they do nothing in a straight line. The super PAC that Singer and the gang control, Restore Our Future, is supposed to be for Romney. But it's not; it's for Singer and Bill Koch. The future they want to restore is their own, not yours or mine -- or Romney's....In the best of all worlds for these super PAC men, no candidate gets the 1,144 delegates needed to win.

Huffington Post, Mitt Romney's Struggles Take Republican Angst To New Heights, Jon Ward, Feb. 9, 2012. The angst within the Republican Party about Mitt Romney's candidacy has risen to such levels that some of the most experienced, influential members of the party are still talking about a late entry into the GOP primary. "Now normally that's a joke," said a longtime party leader who spoke to The Huffington Post about the possibility of a late candidacy on the condition that he not be identified. "I mean normally that just can't go anywhere. But could it go somewhere now, if [Rick] Santorum continues to be unable to raise money from anybody but Foster Friess, if Newt [Gingrich] won't give Santorum a passing lane, if Romney continues to under-perform? If Ron Paul's 10, 12 or 20 percent just stays static as I expect it to?"

Washington Post, Competition for Delegates: Stepping Up to the Nomination, Washington Post, Todd Lindeman, Aaron Blake and Karen Yourish, Jan. 29, 2012. The race for delegates is still in the early stages. There are 2,286 delegates up for grabs in this year’s GOP presidential race, and a candidate needs more than half to become the party’s nominee. Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina accounted for less than 3 percent of the total possible delegates, despite the importance placed on those early contests.

National Review Online, Draft Jeb Bush: A charismatic and accomplished governor can save the Republican party, Artur Davis, Jan. 24 2012.  In the early months of the election year, a polarizing president with a lackluster approval rating bided his time as the opposition party unraveled. Its nominating fight dissolved into chaos as the establishment front-runner collapsed, and an insurgent with a talent for galvanizing his party’s base surged, despite persistent fears about his electoral appeal beyond the party’s hardcore. A protracted primary fight ensued, with the insurgent and the party’s resistant establishment eviscerating each other for months; by the time it ran its course, a president who seemed imminently beatable was ahead by double digits. The story ends with that same president winning by an historic margin over a party that rejected its recent past in favor of a dangerously uncertain future.

Jeb BushWashington Post, Four ways Republicans can win Hispanics back, Jeb Bush, right, Jan. 25, 2012. In the 15 states that are likely to decide who controls the White House and the Senate in 2013, Hispanic voters will represent the margin of victory.  For the Republican Party, the stakes could not be greater. Just eight years after the party’s successful effort to woo Hispanic voters in 2004, this community — the fastest-growing group in the United States, according to census data — has drifted away.  First, we need to recognize this is not a monochromatic community but, rather, a deeply diverse one. Hispanics in this country include Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans and many others.  Second, we should echo the aspirations of these voters. Third, we should press for an overhaul of our education system. Finally, we need to think of immigration reform as an economic issue, not just a border security issue.


Washington Post, Mitch Daniels can’t save the Republican Party, Ezra Klein, Jan. 28, 2012. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) gave a perfectly serviceable speech last night. It was a bit dull, maybe, but it wasn’t a wrenching exercise in self-humiliation. Which is to say, by the standards of post-SOTU responses, it was a stunning, historic success. But it was also a reminder of the difficulties Daniels, a fantasy-draft presidential pick for many Republicans, would face if he entered the campaign.Daniels was George W. Bush’s first budget director. He served from 2001 to mid-2003. That is to say, he oversaw the first round of tax cuts, and the initial cost estimates of the war in Iraq, and the development of the deficit-financed Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. During his time as Bush’s budget director, the deficit increased by almost $200 billion. After he left, the policies he helped pass would add trillions more to the deficit. They are still adding to the deficit today. Perhaps this wouldn’t matter if George W. Bush was revered by Republicans. But he isn’t. Bush left office one of the most unpopular presidents of all time. Under his watch, deficits soared despite an economic expansion. Under his watch, we suffered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the oceans of red ink that we face today are just one of its many aftereffects. The Tea Party was, in large part, a reaction to the damage Bush did to the Republican Party. And today, it is common for conservatives to admit that the Bush years were characterized by an inexcusable profligacy, and to swear that such a spectacle will never again repeat itself. If Daniels did enter the campaign, he would cease to be an example of sober Republican governance and immediately become a threat to a field of experienced, well-financed, defensive candidates. They would hang him with the mistakes of the Bush years.

Washington Post, Gingrich is Obama’s best surrogate, Dana Milbank, Jan. 23, 2012. The most important figure in Tuesday night’s State of the Union address wasn’t on the House floor. In fact, he hasn’t taken a seat in front of the chamber in 13 years. But as he campaigned for the Republican presidential nomination in Florida, former House speaker Newt Gingrich was doing more to boost President Obama’s reelection prospects than anything Obama himself could do. While Obama was using the speech to portray the Republicans as plutocrats, Gingrich was doing all he could to prove the caricature true. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows the damage done. Two weeks ago, Romney was viewed favorably by 39 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 34 percent. Incredibly, he is now viewed favorably by only 31 percent and unfavorably by 49 percent. Gingrich himself remains so unpopular that his own chances of beating Obama seem dim: His 29 percent favorability rating is about where it was before he was dumped as speaker by his House colleagues in 1998. But by making Romney as unpopular as he is, he has made Obama look good by comparison. Obama’s favorable rating is up to 53 percent from 48 percent in December.

Washington Post, Leaders in GOP race leave voters wanting more, Dan Balz, Jan. 23, 2012. Neither Romney nor Gingrich gives GOP voters confidence of a White House win. The role reversal that took place during Monday’s Republican presidential debate proved two things: Mitt Romney knows he desperately needs to win the Florida primary on Tuesday, and Newt Gingrich isnt the same candidate onstage without a boisterous audience backing him. After the shellacking Romney received in South Carolina, his front-runner’s aura disappeared. No more trying to glide through a debate against rivals he regarded as minor threats or political lightweights. For the first time, he met his leading rival as an equal or maybe even an underdog. 

Frontloading Headquarters, Republican Delegate Allocation Rules: 2012 vs. 2008, Josh Putnam, Dec. 24, 2011. The RNC released yesterday the final piece of the puzzle in terms of how delegates will be allocated in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.1 Now, FHQ has ben saying all along that, theoretically, the changes to the delegate selection rules would not affect states and subsequently the candidates and their efforts to win more delegates all that much. Again, theoretically. At issue has been whether a state had to in some way abandon either straight winner-take-all delegate allocation or a hybrid system with winner-take-all allocation of at-large (base and bonus) delegates and congressional district delegates for a more proportional method in states with contests before April 1. Some change was inevitable, but because the rules change was treated as black and white -- that Republican winner-take-all states now had to be proportional before April 1 -- the impact of the change has been consistently overstated.

Politico, Obama hosts George H.W. and Jeb Bush at White House, Donovan Slack, Jan. 27, 2012. Unbeknownst to the press, President Obama met Friday evening with former president George H.W. Bush and his son, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, in the Oval Office.  White House officials did not list the meeting on the president's schedule but released a photo on Flickr. According to the photo's time stamp, the meeting occurred shortly after 5 p.m., about the time the president returned to the White House from a fundraiser.  When asked what the men discussed and why it wasn't on the schedule, the White House released a statement saying, “The three men enjoyed a personal visit in the Oval Office – as they have done on previous occasions when President Bush is Washington.”  The Bushes are in town to attend the exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner Saturday, an annual get-together for Washington power brokers that Obama also is scheduled to attend, according to the Associated Press.

Lagniappe, Davis regrets questioning Siegelman prosecution, Jeff Poor, Jan. 24, 2012. Since losing his bid for the Democratic Party nomination for governor of Alabama in 2010, in what many political spectators viewed as a shocking 24-point loss to then Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, former Rep. Artur Davis has carved himself out a unique spot inside the inside-the-beltway punditocracy of Washington, D.C. "I want to remind people that I pretty much ran a campaign against the Democratic Party in Alabama,” Davis said. "Pretty much the whole hierarchy of the Democratic Party was opposed to my campaign. They opposed it in every way, shape and form. They pretty much opposed it from the very beginning of the campaign. Given that, I ran as someone who was going to fundamentally change the Democratic Party, someone who was going to break up the gravy train you had running over there at the state party.” Following the election, Davis left Alabama and his immediate future involves a stint at the Harvard Institute of Politics, where for the next four months he’ll be serving a fellowship. But his disdain for where he believes the Alabama Democratic Party is headed remains. In 2007, Davis was serving on the House Judiciary Committee and had been outspoken about the 2006 conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. He implied that the Bush administration had been playing politics with that conviction. That along with remaining in office during his 2010 gubernatorial run he said were his two main regrets while in politics. Since leaving office in 2011, Davis has penned columns for Politico and in recent months has had his work featured by National Review, a standard bearer on policy for many in conservative circles.

Huffington Post, Why Alabama Democrats Rejected Centrist Artur Davis, Obama's Pal, Andrew Kreig, June 2, 2010,
In a stunning rejection of the Republican-lite tactics often favored by Democratic party leaders in red and swing states, Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks upset Congressman Artur Davis in Tuesday's primary for their party's gubernatorial nomination.  Sparks ran to the left of Davis, a friend of President Obama since their overlapping studies at Harvard Law School. The 62-38 Sparks victory Tuesday confounded pollsters, the centrist strategy promoted by the White House, and conventional wisdom that the better-funded Davis would defeat Sparks or force his withdrawal before the primary.

Op Ed News, Obama Should Learn From the Artur Davis Debacle In Alabama, Andrew Kreig, June 7, 2010. The full story has not yet been published about last week's rout of favored Democratic candidate Artur Davis in the Alabama gubernatorial primary.  Little-known Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks ran to the left of the better-funded Davis and trounced him by a 62-38 margin. This is even though Davis was his state's senior Democratic congressman and enjoyed a close relationship with President Obama, whose Harvard Law School studies overlapped by a year.  The corporate-owned media know that the Davis defeat is big news, as shown by two stories in the June 6 Washington Post alone, here and here. But this is mostly horse-race coverage about winning.

Washington Post, Who had the worst week in Washington? Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, Chris Cillizza, June 6, 2010. Turns out being the next Barack Obama isn't as easy as it looks. Ask Artur Davis -- African American, Harvard Law School graduate, four-term member of Congress and, until Tuesday night, the man touted by state and national Democrats as the first black governor of Alabama and then . . . who knows?  Riding that wave of promise, Davis was expected to sweep aside little-regarded state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks in the Democratic gubernatorial primary Tuesday.