I don’t care what he says and don’t care what the analysts think, my hunch is that Jeb Bush may be lurking way behind in the shadows preparing to run in 2012 — and that could be a very tough race for President Obama. And even if he doesn’t then, he’s only 63 in 2016.
Jeb Bush is going out of his way to squash rumors that he might run. He told the New York Times‘ John Harwood he was definitely not running in 2012.
But what if there just isn’t anyone serious out there who can bridge the ascendant Tea Party movement with the GOP establishment? My bet is that the more Jeb Bush says “NO”, the more the party will eventually demand that he be the candidate — and my bet (as things look today) is that Sarah Palin will be the kingmaker in the decision.
I spoke with a very wealthy, somewhat secretive GOP donor in the Hamptons in the late summer who told me that those who prefer Jeb Bush in 2012 want him to wait in the background until the reality sets in that the GOP has no candidate. Then, like Silky Sullivan, Bush will come out of the closet as the only candidate that the Tea Party and gray hairs of the party can coalesce around.
Taegan Goddard posted a link to a CNN survey of Republicans which asked them as they left voting polls on Tuesday who they’d like to have as their GOP presidential candidate in 2012.
Iowa: Romney 21%, Huckabee 21%, Palin 18%, Gingrich 7%
New Hampshire: Romney 39%, Palin 18%, Huckabee 11%, Gingrich 9%
South Carolina: Palin 25%, Huckabee 24%, Romney 21%, Gingrich 20%
In match ups against President Obama, Huckabee leads 52% to 44% and Romney is ahead 50% to 45%. However, Obama beats Gingrich 49% to 47% and tops Palin 52% to 44%.
Other candidates mentioned but all of whom were in single digits were Ron Paul, Haley Barbour, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Pence, and Rick Santorum.
I don’t think any of these candidates, including Romney and Palin, can bridge the differences inside the GOP.
Bush wasn’t included on the list. Neither for that matter was Mitch Daniels, who I think would make an attractive candidate on many levels — but again is probably not someone the Tea Party crowd would go for.
Despite rumors that he has some serious family issues that might complicate a run, I think Jeb Bush would be the GOP’s best shot at dislodging President Obama.
And if Bush does take the lead on the ticket, the question is then whether Obama will shuffle his own team and consider Hillary Clinton. Lots of stuff would have to happen for that to take place — but it’s in the realm of possibility even though President Obama is rumored to have already told Joe Biden that he wants him on the ticket in 2012.
This all could be wrong — but I’m still suspicious that Jeb Bush has been studying up on Silky Sullivan. Obama should too.
— Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons