Bush isn’t my preferred candidate for the Republican nomination (I don’t have one yet), nor is he likely to so become. However, I thought his speech was impressive, both in content (he can thank his speechwriters) and in delivery.
Bush didn’t seem exactly “joyous,” but he certainly looked comfortable — more so than his brother used to when campaigning. At a minimum, I think Bush will live up to his role as the favorite of “establishment Republicans.” And the favorite of establishment Republicans typically becomes the nominee.
Bush’s goal will be to win the support of a decent share of conservative Republicans. To that end, he gave a conservative speech, relying heavily on his record on Florida governor which was pretty conservative. As James Hohmman and Elise Viebeck of the Washington Post point out:
Bush is bedeviled by his apostasies, support for Common Core education standards and legal status for undocumented immigrants. But the ex-governor has a long list of accomplishments that will play well with very conservative base voters who now view him unfavorably, including ending affirmative action at in-state colleges, expanding gun rights, signing tax cuts and fighting to keep Terri Schiavo on life support.
In today’s speech, Bush alluded to “Common Core” issues by saying: “Every school should have high standards, and the federal government should have nothing to do with setting them.”
As for immigration, Bush had nothing to say in his prepared text. However, when pro-amnesty protesters tried to interrupt his speech, Bush told them that “the next president of the United States will pass meaningful immigration reform,” and that it will not be done by executive order.
Whether or not one favors the kind of “meaningful immigration reform” Bush probably has in mind (I don’t), it was an impressive moment. I very much doubt that Hillary Clinton could have pulled it off (or that protesters would even be able to make their way into a Hillary event).
I’ve already said that it’s a probably a mistake to write off Jeb Bush’s chances for the Republican nomination. After today’s speech, I believe this more firmly.
Bush is a better campaigner, I think, than the GOP’s 2012 nominee. And, though lacking Romney’s impressive record in the private sector, Bush has a better, more conservative record as governor.
He also looks like a significantly better campaigner than Hillary Clinton. That’s not saying much, but in the general election, if both make it that far, it could offset the advantage the Clinton name holds over the Bush name.