Republican Division and the Long Road to Presidential Nomination: Jeb Bush as a GOP Hopeful

Emily Stewart

While Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, is unlikely to face any significant challenge to her candidacy, among Republican contenders, the prospects of winning the GOP nomination are less clear-cut. Perhaps the GOP counterpart to Clinton, Jeb Bush—despite hailing from the Republican establishment—has much greater roadblocks to securing the Republican presidential nomination than Hillary. Indeed, there is a strict dichotomy between the rhetoric surrounding Jeb Bush’s potential campaign and the reality of his standing among other GOP presidential hopefuls. While some supporters of his candidacy employed “the phrase ‘shock and awe’” to describe his plan to sweep the Republican candidacy in terms of donations and “policy experts,” as described in a recent New York Times article by Confessore and Haberman, the prospects of Jeb Bush dominating the Republican presidential candidacy are anything but shocking, even unclear and perhaps more difficult than his team might have expected. Among Republicans, then, and specifically for Jeb Bush, possessing an “establishment” reputation appears to afford no advantage in the likelihood of securing the party’s presidential nomination. Due to the ideological divisions within the Republican Party, Jeb Bush’s road to the presidential nomination will require significant effort on his part of appealing to each sector of the Republican party—a task that lends itself to what will likely turn Bush’s campaign into a perhaps confusing platform of mixed messages aimed at appealing to a more moderate GOP base.

According to recent polls reported in an article in The New York Times, Jeb Bush stands almost in an equal position against Hillary Clinton with other presidential hopefuls of the GOP, such as Scott Walker and Rand Paul. Thus, he’s not necessarily “Republicans’ best hope,” a phrase employed in The New York Times article—though his supporters would like to think that’s the case, especially because of Bush’s establishment in the Republican Party. The reasons for this perhaps surprising scenario have resulted from the Republican factional divisions that typify the party—making it difficult to garner general support from a less than united party base. Though he seems to dominate the business-oriented wing of the Republican party, he will struggle to win the favor of the religious wing, to secure donations from hesitant donors, and even to secure the votes of swing states like Florida, where he was once governor. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, seems to have no problem in clearly garnering support in typical swing states such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, according to a POLITICO article. Curiously, though, Jeb Bush might not have any issues securing the GOP Hispanic vote, given his reported affiliation as a Hispanic voter on a 2009 voter-registration application and also his strong familial and political ties to the Hispanic wing of the Republican Party, reported in an article by Alan Rappeport of The New York Times.

As a result, the path to the presidential nomination for Jeb Bush will not be easy. Appealing to such a wide breadth of voters from the GOP’s different factions does not bode well for a unified campaign message that is easily synthesized into clear policy proposals. In fact, Jeb Bush will have to significantly moderate on many views in order to attract votes away from other GOP presidential hopefuls with potentially clearer-cut affiliations to various Republican voter blocs. However, such a campaign that attempts to unify such stratified blocs may result in a campaign of mixed messages with which it is hard to identify. As the months until the primaries unravel, the only assured aspect of Jeb Bush’s potential path to presidential candidacy is the fact that, according to Confessore and Haberman of The New York Times, “for the Bush family, inevitability is not what it used to be.”

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