Chait thinks it's that Clinton is running as the person who'll continue the work of two successful presidents, while Jeb inherited a mantle of failure:
[Hillary Clinton's] strategy is working because Bill Clinton was a successful president, and Obama has been an extremely successful one. There may be shortcomings in both of their records, but both of them managed to govern intelligently, competently, and in a way that looked after a relatively broad spectrum of interests.Except that Republicans don't disavow George W. Bush -- far from it. Remember this YouGov poll from last fall?
George W. Bush’s presidency did none of these things. His administration was an abject disaster both domestically and abroad. Jeb Bush never figured out how to divest himself from his brother’s failure, and by the end reduced himself to running openly as his heir, bringing Dubya to campaign with him in his South Carolina box canyon stand. The Bush disaster presented Jeb with a double trap he could never escape. His brand was poison for swing voters. And conservatives, who had fallen mostly in line with Dubya during his presidency, were forced to disavow him as a heretic by the end so that their ideology could escape the wreckage.
Eighty percent of Republican voters surveyed say they approve of George W. Bush's tenure as president.If Republican voters thoroughly reject Bushism, why is a Bush substitute who's not named Jeb doing relatively well, as even Chait acknowledges?
Their feelings toward Bush don't quite match their admiration for Ronald Reagan -- just 29 percent "strongly approve," while 51 percent approve only somewhat. But 85 percent say that Bush did a "good" or "excellent" job of keeping the nation safe....
GOP voters also say by a 4-point margin, 43 percent to 39 percent, that they'd vote for George W. Bush again in 2016 if he were eligible for a third term.
Marco Rubio represents the true continuation of Bushism within the party -- massive tax cuts plus neoconservative foreign policy plus soft-pedaled social conservatism, all sold in a compassionate package with lots of high-profile outreach to Democratic constituencies. Rubio allows Republicans to double down on Bushism without saddling themselves with the liability of the Bush name or, by extension, acknowledging that they still believe Bush’s ideas work.But look at the poll numbers above. Republicans still like George W. Bush. Why would they have to lie to themselves about that? Why would they reject Jeb and embrace Rubio?
What killed Jeb Bush’s campaign was first the failure of his brother’s administration, and then the emergence of Marco Rubio to present a more attractive face for its continuation.
The reason is that Republicans just want to have a good time hating their enemies. They want someone who seems ready to vanquish those enemies, or at least frustrate them. Rubio doesn't seem like a tough guy, but at minimum he seems to loathe some of the people and institutions Republican voters loathe. By contrast, Jeb spent his campaign conveying the sense that he doesn't hate Common Core, he doesn't hate undocumented immigrants, and so on. Even George W. looks better to Republicans now than Jeb, because he's recalled as someone who made liberals (and those evil terr'ists) squirm.
All Jeb had to do was seem as if he might piss liberals off and hurt a few brown people. He could have been a contender if he'd seemed capable of that. But he looked as if we'd already defeated him. That's why he lost.