Monday, January 05, 2015


At Politico, Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, snarks off about the chances of W's brother Jeb in the 2016 primaries:
George W. Bush also was smart enough to know something about the GOP presidential contest that so far seems to elude his younger brother. The Jon Huntsman strategy doesn’t work. You don’t run to the embrace of the D.C. political class and -- horrors -- the mainstream media if you want to win the GOP nomination. The minute I saw Huntsman treated to a gushing profile in Vogue back in 2011 -- “his left eyebrow is pitched slightly lower than the other, and the eye below it has a slight squint. This gives him a perpetual expression of thoughtful engagement, the look of someone listening intently to what others are saying” -- I knew he was doomed in Iowa. Even today D.C. politicos don’t get this about the Republican base: When you are the toast of the liberal media, you are toast in Des Moines. The sure sign Jeb is about to drop out of the race is when he gets a photo taken by Annie Leibovitz.
I agree that Jeb's positions on education and immigration are going to hurt him. (Latimer also points to taxes: Jeb has refused to sign Grover Norquist's no-new-taxes pledge and has said a ten-to-one ratio of cuts to new taxes is acceptable to him, a heretical position on the right.) However, I don't see Jeb being romanticized by the mainstream media this year the way Huntsman was by some journalists four years ago. Much of the coverage of Jeb so far has consisted of groaning about a Dynasty vs. Dynasty presidential race in 2016. (See for instance, yesterday's Frank Bruni column, which contains brilliant insights about a Jeb/Hillary matchup such as the following: "It would be a replay of the 1992 race, but with the wife of the victor against a son of the loser." Wow -- I see the race in a whole new light now, Frank! That's why they pay you the big bucks!)

When MSM pundits aren't talking dynasty in reference to Jeb, they're writing about his ability to lock up big-money establishment donors, which makes him sound powerful but not admirable. They're not dreamily mooning over his perpetually engaged squint of thoughtfulness. If the mainstream-press message continues to be "Jeb is a Bush, and Bushes get to run things," that's not going to hurt him too much with the base -- the base believes that the rich and powerful deserve to be that way, unless they're from Hollywood.

Jeb is #1 in National Journal's new rankings of the Republican presidential field; his establishment connections are the reason. But Marco Rubio, bafflingly, is ranked #2. (The Real Clear Politics polling averages have him in ninth place.) There's skepticism in what NJ says about Rubio, but only because Jeb is now positioned to poach his potential donors. The rest of the writeup is just gush:
The senator from Florida has the highest upside of anyone on this list. His combination of biography, demographic profile, and rhetorical skill had convinced many Republicans in the wake of his 2010 Senate victory that he was the future of the Republican Party. He still could be. Rubio has assembled a top-notch political team and is planning a major media blitz in mid-January to promote his new book, American Dreams.

... He's too talented -- and too ambitious -- to pass up a race that could define the GOP for a generation....
First of all: the book? Seriously? No one reads campaign books, or at least no one reads campaign books by authors whose surnames aren't either Obama or Clinton. Remember, this is Rubio's second book. Did you know he'd written a first one? It was called An American Son. According to Nielsen Bookscan, it sold 35,906 copies -- which is actually not terrible for a hardcover book, but please note that Hillary Clinton's recent "flop" book, Hard Choices, sold about 250,000 copies. (Her previous book sold a million copies in its first month on sale.)

The teabaggers who helped vote Rubio in dislike him intensely now for being soft on immigration; he's going to lose massive amounts of establishment support to Jeb; Ted Cruz and Rand Paul have done a much better job of using the Senate to grandstand on base-pleasing issues; Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and now Mike Huckabee have a lock on the Jesus vote; and pretty much everyone apart from Rand Paul is as much a foreign-policy hard-liner as Rubio. (I thought Rubio's grandstanding on Cuba was going to help him, but that issue seems to have vaporized over the holidays, even on the right.)

The only people who still seem to see Rubio as a major contender are in the mainstream press -- here he is in yesterday's New York Times Magazine getting a softball interview, though even there he can't escape a question about his water-bottle moment during the State of the Union response in 2013, which is probably the best-known thing about him.

I don't think there's a Huntsman in this field -- a candidate who'd rather court Vogue than Fox News -- but Rubio looks like what the mainstream press think a fresh-faced pretty-boy presidential aspirant should look like in a new-millennium, Hispanic-themed reboot of JFK's 1960 campaign. And that's about all he's got going for him right now.


Victor said...

Sure, Marco's a pretty-boy.

But one with an empty suit. And an even emptier brain.

Ken_L said...

Latimer claims that 'Almost all of the oft-mentioned candidates are people of quality and worth'. Sadly, he doesn't tell us who the low quality, worthless ones are. No doubt he's doesn't want to offend a potential employer.

BTW what happened to Sarah Palin's perennial possible candidacy? Don't tell me even conservatives have finally seen through her act?

petrilli said...

Bush's weakness with the nut-job base voters are a difficult, but not impossible problem for him. Mitt faced the same deal. After couple months of pie and seltzer fights, I think jeb's experience, money and deep-state connections will pull him through. Romney could be a game changer if he goes again. So could Walker if his criminal investigation breaks his way and his own legislature doesn't bust his balls for running.