Governor Bush is an ideologue but someone who had subscribed to a certain degree of governing conservatism, which in today’s Tea Party climate means an acceptance of certain tenets of liberalism. This includes the need for government to spend basic levels of taxpayer money to maintain essential services. Having not faced a GOP Primary electorate since 1994, when Bush’s name and conservative-brand when compared to relatively moderate Republicans that had characterized the the RPOF in the 1980’s made him an easy choice for many, Jeb!’s rust and inability to understand the new electorate ultimately doomed him from the start.
In a process badly in need of an “adult” alternative with the media cycle being dominated by the bombastic Donald Trump and hard-core rhetorical ideologues in Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, Bush did have a path to staying relevant if not to win the nomination. Bush could not find his feet and stumbled in trying to relate to the anger of the GOP electorate caused by the Obama years and a seeming racial undertones on immigration reform. Governor John Kasich has survived longer than Bush but likely meets the same fate as someone too accomplished and responsible to placate the angry dogs that make up today’s GOP electorate.
The Bush family have long been to the left on immigration issues. George W. Bush as Governor of Texas famously said “while I am Governor of Texas no child will be left without public education,” when the right-wing leadership in the state wanted to pass a law to ban children of illegal immigrants from attending public schools. As President, Bush was aligned more closely with Democrats on this specific issue than many in his own party.
Jeb Bush ultimately mirrored his brother’s views on immigration. The irony being of course, had his brother succeeded in passing some degree of immigration reform the GOP would not be in this position of seeing huge majorities of Latino voters cast ballots for Democratic candidates. Jeb Bush won the Latino vote both times he was elected Governor of Florida, but last year Rick Scott lost the same electorate in the state by 20+ points to Democrat Charlie Crist even though Scott, like Bush won and is two-term Republican Governor.
Being a conservative problem solver with an ability to work in small doses across the aisle could have been Bush’s campaign theme. But the definition of conservatism has changed since Bush was Governor. Now conservatism is more cleanly defined as anger against minorities and a shuttering of any federal spending beyond defense. That is never who Jeb Bush was and ultimately in this changed GOP electorate the man whose contributions to Florida permanently realigned the partisan composition of state government was doomed.
Bush’s transformation from partisan, ideological extremist circa 2002 to outsider too far left and too responsible for be nominated by the GOP in 2016 is a clear demonstration of how far right that party has shifted.