domingo, 24 de junio de 2012

16: ¿está Jeb Bush posicionándose para una candidatura presidencial?


Ever since Jeb Bush left the Florida governor's mansion in 2007 with favorable ratings after two terms, speculation has swirled about his political future.

(...) When he said he supported a modest tax increase along with spending cuts to help reduce the federal debt, Bush joked, "This will prove I'm not running for anything." Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican presidential nominee, and the party leadership oppose any and all tax hikes.

Comments like these have only fueled speculation that Bush is positioning himself to run for president - in 2016. According to this scenario, his breaking with the party on issues such as taxes is meant to stake out a platform that will move it back to the moderate center and away from more divisive social issues, while also seeking more common ground on issues such as education and immigration.

The best argument for doing that, of course, would be if Romney, running on more conservative positions, fails to unseat President Barack Obama this year.

"Jeb Bush is following a pattern we see with ambitious presidential candidates," said Jamie Chandler, a political scientist at Hunter College, New York. "Just like Romney did in 2004, he's raising his public profile and increasing his speech activity now for a potential run in four years."

If Romney wins, Bush would be a likely cabinet candidate, perhaps as education secretary, said Chandler. But any presidential ambitions would have to wait until 2020. By then he would be almost 68, just a year younger than Reagan in 1990, the oldest U.S. president to be sworn into office.

Not everyone is convinced Bush has such a game plan. Some of the people who know him best say he is not that calculating. They say he is speaking out because he is deeply loyal to the Republican Party and worried about the issues he holds dear.

"It's more about helping the cause than helping himself. He will always call it the way he sees it," said Jorge Arrizurietta, a top Republican fundraiser in Miami and a former adviser to Jeb Bush. "I can't tell you that he's got a master plan, but there is a broad consensus in the party that Jeb should stay involved and consider a run at the right moment."

(...) Bush's conservative record in government gives him more "flexibility" to speak freely, said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "He's got a record that's appealed to the base. That overrides any apostasy on the campaign trail."

Bush secured his bona fides with social conservatives in 2003 with his controversial order to reinsert the feeding tube of Terri Schiavo, a brain-injured woman who had been in a coma for 15 years. The family was divided over whether to keep her alive, but right-to-life activists pushed the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bush made his biggest mark as governor in education policy, securing a number of reforms with a conservative slant. He signed a measure giving public schools an annual grade based on student test scores and rewarded them with state funds accordingly.

He encouraged charter schools, which are publicly funded but typically run by private corporations, and instituted a statewide voucher program - later struck down by the state Supreme Court - that let hundreds of students in failing public schools enroll in private and religious schools at taxpayer expense.

The state has posted strong growth in reading and math scores, according to recent federal data, with most of the gains coming during the Bush administration.

(...) "Jeb wants to be a leader on the big issues of the day ... Whether he's influencing the 2012 debate or the 2016 debate, or even 2020, that's not the question," said Chuck Cobb, a close friend of the Bush family and former undersecretary of commerce in the Reagan administration. "Does Jeb want to be a leader? Yes. Does Jeb have to be the leader of the United States to do that? I think not."

(...) His education work gives Bush a platform to proselytize fellow Republican lawmakers and governors. He has been to a dozen states over the past 15 months to promote the "Florida formula," in the process establishing a network that would serve him well in a national campaign.

Bush "has turned into a kind of Johnny Appleseed of education reform, carrying ideas around the country and planting them wherever he can," said Chester Finn Jr., an education policy analyst and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank in Washington.

One of those ideas, which resonates with the party base, is to aggressively promote the idea that teachers unions are impediments to reform.

Education could be a way for Bush to build political coalitions, since the cause of improving America's schools crosses party lines.

(...) Even though they have their differences, Bush has earned the respect of the Tea Party. "Jeb Bush is a very solid conservative and a likable guy. Many people like me wish he was president," says Florida Tea Party Chairman Everett Wilkinson, a Palm Beach County political consultant.

Some Democrats also admit to a sneaking regard for him. "I think he is the most dangerous Republican candidate," says Freddy Balsera, a public relations consultant in Miami and Hispanic adviser to the Obama campaign. "He's a real conservative who understands Latino voters better than even many Latino elected officials," he added.

Hispanic voters were deeply opposed to the war in Iraq and blame George W. Bush for the recession. But by 2016 that may be less relevant.

Certainly, Jeb's family remains proud of the Bush brand. His granddaughter, born last year, was named Georgia H.W. Bush.

"I know that there's Bush fatigue right now, but I think Jeb can overcome that," says Ros-Lehtinen. "I hope that he runs for president. I think that's where he belongs."

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