Last weekend, speculation former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) might run for president in 2016 ramped up when both of his sons gave interviews indicating he is “moving forward” with a potential campaign and his family is “geared up” for it. If Bush does attempt to follow his father and brother’s footsteps to the White House, many insiders expect he would be the instant leader in a crowded Republican field.
“If he gets in … he is the immediate frontrunner,” former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said of Bush.
Business Insider spoke to top GOP donors who indicated many of the party’s top fundraisers are ready to back Bush.
“He will get the backing.” SkyBridge Capital CEO, Anthony Scaramucci said of Bush. “People will be stepping over themselves.”
More importantly, it seems some key Republican donors are waiting until Bush decides whether to run before giving money to any other potential candidates.
One top investor who regularly donates to GOP candidates said they would support Bush and will not be making 2016 contributions to anyone else until they know if he’s running. They added that they know of several other major donors who are staying on the sidelines until Bush makes his choice.
Steele said this sentiment is echoed throughout the GOP establishment.
“I think that’s reflective of the general view around the party as a whole, not just within the donor class. I think there’s a lot of anticipation, particularly in light of the family’s movement towards a potential run,” said Steele when asked about the comments from donors. “That makes a lot of sense and it’s consistent with what I’m hearing on the ground as well.”
Steele attributed the business community’s eagerness to back Bush to his experience and relatively even-keeled approach.
“For business men and women, they like the comfort of certainty and so they respect what they would view as levelheadedness in dealing with and looking at some of the problems the country faces,” Steele said. “It’s not reactive one way or the other, but it’s really sort of a steadier hand approach to solving the problems. And again, this goes back to Gov. Bush’s abilities as governor working with Democrats in the state and nationally on these issues, you know, bringing that steady hand. And I think that brings people a lot more comfort.”
Indeed, assuming 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney is really, as his wife has indicated, “done” running for president, Bush is set to be the most moderate option for Republicans in 2016.
Without Bush, the GOP field seems likely to be dominated by the infamously confrontational New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Tea Party favourite Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and the libertarian-leaning Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). Steele suggested this impression is shared by both Republican Party insiders and voters in the conservative base.
“I think for the party establishment, I also think for a good number of the grassroots folks out there as well … theres a great affinity for the Bush family,” said Steele, adding, “And there’s a very good appreciation for what Jeb did as governor of Florida, what he has done since then.”
Of course, Bush’s more moderate positions, specifically on education reform and on immigration, might not earn him opposition among staunch conservatives. However, Steele argued Bush’s advocacy for education reform is evidence of his experience and ability to be an effective leader.
“You have those who are, I’ll put it politely, disappointed that he, you know, has been an advocate of Common Core and some other education reforms, which they don’t agree with. But, you know, that’s the difference between having governed and knowing what’s needed in order to move issues like education,” Steele said.
On immigration, Steele suggested the fact Bush has a wife of Mexican descent allows him to bring a valuable perspective to the issue.
“What I think Jeb speaks to in such a personal way and, I think, in an important way for Republicans to listen to is, he speaks to the humanity of the individuals who are seeking a better life in this country,” said Steele. “You know, these aren’t statistics, these aren’t faceless individuals who have committed a crime, but these are people who are striving for a better life for their families.”
Steele also Bush’s support for reform could help a Republican Party that has talked about rebranding in the face of declining support among minority voters and a growing Latino electorate.
“Our party’s always talked about being a party of assimilation, a party of welcoming, and that’s something that I think Jeb brings to the conversation that we need to pay a little bit more attention to,” Steele said. “That’s going to be a real test for the party, I think, in the next couple of years.”
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