By Eric Vining
With Election Day coming to a close Tuesday, the media’s endless attention towards the U.S. Senate race will now shift to the most important race of all – the race for party supremacy in the White House.
For the moment, energy is high in the GOP – after a record-breaking donation spree in their efforts to take the Senate, the Republican Party now has the enthusiasm to look forward to the 2016 presidential race.
Before that can happen, though, the divided Republicans will have to nominate someone for a match-up against a strong opponent from the unified Democratic camp.
The names of many possible contenders have been thrown around the media over the past couple months. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and even former GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney have all been named as possible contenders to the title.
With so many candidates vying for the position, it is no wonder that so many voters are unsure who they would support.
In all the media frenzy, however, it seems as though most have forgotten about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who may very well be the “dark horse” candidate the GOP has been looking for.
In a sense, Bush is the perfect man for the job. As the former governor of a powerful swing state, Bush has metaphorically “earned his stripes” by passing a variety of important reforms in a state almost divided 50/50 politically. This kind of experience is incredibly useful for any candidate hoping to one day live and work in the White House.
Bush also has the support of his party. Unlike Cruz and Paul, who are both considered Tea Party favorites for the presidency, Bush has little affiliation with the grassroots movement. Instead, Bush has stayed mostly above the political fray since his time as governor and has instead focused on bipartisan initiatives, such as education reform in public schools. This allows Bush to be considered a strong member of the party without evoking controversy in the way Cruz and Paul do.
Most importantly, though, Bush’s politics are mixed, making him likeable to liberal swing voters without alienating his conservative base.
As governor, Bush cut the size of the state government by over 6 percent and advocated standardized testing in public schools very similar to his brother George’s initiative while governor of Texas. These policies are distinctly conservative and appeal to the average Republican voter. Bush has also been engaged in a variety of GOP fund raising campaigns since his time as governor, which only helps to improve and solidify his base within the Republican Party.
On the other hand, Bush has also proposed immigration and education reforms that are much more liberal in nature. In April 2013, Bush called for a “welcoming immigration policy”, taking a step in the opposite direction from the traditional Republican stance of increased border security over immigration reform. This, of course, makes Bush much more appealing to middle-of-the-road and liberal-leaning moderates, most of whom voted for President Barack Obama in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but at the expense of losing a good amount of the Tea Party vote.
That isn’t to say that Bush’s road to the White House would be an easy one. One glaring problem Bush will have to face is the continued frustration over former President George W. Bush, who many still place responsibility upon for the 2008 economic recession that is still having repercussions in the economy today.
If the GOP is serious about controlling the White House, they must find a candidate that will bridge the gap between conservatives and moderate liberals as well as between traditional Conservatives and members of the Tea Party movement. The only way to do this is to have a candidate with a mix of policies that can stand a chance against a solid Democratic voting base, and Jeb Bush is an appealing choice for those hoping for a GOP victory in 2016.
Eric Vining is a sophomore journalism and political science double major from Houston. He is the Web Editor for the Lariat.