IF JEB BUSH IS POSTURING FOR 2016 (OR A BROKERED 2012), HE'S GOING ABOUT IT ALL WRONG
I know that the simplest explanation for what Jeb Bush said this week is that the Republican Establishment has him warming up in the bullpen so he can be the cigar-chompers' choice in the event of a brokered convention -- but I don't buy that.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush expressed anguish over the rhetoric he’s heard in the various 2012 GOP debates. "I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I'm wondering, I don't think I've changed, but it's a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people's fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are."
There are two problems with the brokered-Jeb scenario. First of all, if you have a brokered convention precisely because your most restive voters chose Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul out of a sense that Mitt Romney is insufficiently loyal to the wingnut cause, how are you going to turn out the base in November with a nominee who says stuff like this, which is equally insulting to wingnuts? You might have turned base voters out with Jeb hewing strictly to the Fox News line, but this isn't going to work. You're going to appeal to Romney skeptics with a guy who seems like more of a turncoat than Romney?
And second, why are you even bothering to roll out a backup plan when -- gaffes notwithstanding -- the Romney Super PAC Death Star is in the process of burying Santorum's Michigan campaign in money on the way to a likely victory in that state?
Now, maybe that second objection is a weak one -- Santorum could still conceivably pull this off -- but really, how do you get Jeb as "RINO" past the purists in November? How do you even get him nominated at the convention? Wouldn't delegates chosen by purity-seeking primary voters be precisely the reason you've got a brokered convention in the first place?
And as for 2016, I don't see how this is a winning strategy, either. I know that the conventional wisdom is that the insanity in the GOP is a temporary fever in the brain that will break relatively soon, but, like DougJ, I don't buy it. If Santorum were the nominee and he picked an even nuttier, wingier running mate, and then went on to be crushed in November, maybe -- maybe -- the party would pull back from the brink and moderate its views in 2016. But Santorum isn't going to be the nominee -- RMoney is going to be the nominee. So if Romney loses, Rush Limbaugh will say what he always says when Republicans lose, precisely what he said in '92 and '08: that they lost by not being conservative enough. And next time we'll get an Allen West/Joe Arpaio ticket.
I could offer the crazy theory that Jeb's posturing is happening with an eye to the Americans Elect nomination, possibly with the GOP Establishment's support, in the event that Santorum defeats Romney. I've speculated about this scenario, as has Rachel Maddow. But it makes sense only if you think the Establishment Republicans have decided to throw the 2012 election. Then again, if Santorum won, maybe they would, bowing to the seemingly inevitable, and they'd back Jeb as an AE candidate knowing they could say he might have triumphed in a two-man race (hint hint for 2016). Too far-fetched?