One of the most impressive appearances by a politician that I’ve ever seen was a speech that Jeb Bush gave a few years back at a National Review Institute event. I’m not terribly surprised that, given the weakness of the GOP field, the NR-niks who were in the room for that speech are now arguing that Jeb ought to jump into the 2012 presidential race; Rich Lowry and Kathryn Jean Lopez both have columns on the topic today (and John J. Miller has a profile of the former Florida governor in NR‘s current print edition). Rich’s column in particular makes a strong case that Jeb is better off running this cycle than waiting for another opportunity down the line, and both of them argue that the name “Bush” isn’t as much a liability as it once was.
The problem is that it’s not just his name that would be a liability — it’s also Jeb’s loyalty to his brother. He pointedly and explicitly declined to criticize anything about the George W. Bush presidency in that NRI speech. “Compassionate conservatism” is decidely out of fashion these days; Republican primary voters are going to want to hear candidates distance themselves from the fiscal profligacy of the Bush years. It’s not clear that Jeb Bush would be willing to do that.
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