Bush has an array of advantages should he run. He has instant access to his family’s vast fundraising network, he is well-liked by evangelicals and fiscal conservatives, and as a fluent Spanish-speaker whose wife is Mexican American, he could connect with Hispanic voters.
But as the scion of a political dynasty, he also carries the considerable baggage of his family. His father, George H.W. Bush, was a one-term president who angered conservatives by breaking his “no new taxes” pledge. And his brother George W. Bush alienated many in the party by supporting spending increases and left office as a deeply unpopular president.
In his interviews, Jeb Bush has touched on much more than immigration. He has weighed in on the budget battles in Washington, the role of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (“I love Christie,” he said repeatedly) and strategies for reworking schools, long one of his cherished issues.
He drew a sharp critique from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who was irritated when Bush told NBC’s “Today” show Monday that he wouldn’t rule out new revenue as part of a budget deal “if the president is sincere about dealing with our structural problems.” Republicans in Congress have said revenue is off the table, and Norquist likened Bush’s comments to “throwing marbles at the feet” of GOP lawmakers.
“If you’re trying to introduce yourself to the modern Republican Party outside of Florida, probably best not to start with a discussion about how much you could be talked into a tax increase,” Norquist said. “People are looking for someone who’s tough, and you’re saying, ‘I’d fold.’ “
Most notable in Bush’s appearances this week, though, has been his willingness to engage on the 2016 question.
Since last year’s election, Bush and some in his inner circle have been fielding calls from Republicans across the country encouraging him to run. He also received such calls before the 2008 and 2012 elections, but in both cases, he quickly ruled out a campaign.