This echoes something Fred Barnes quipped, “if he were Jeb Smith, we’d all be talking about him for president.” Indeed, as I survey the potential contenders for 2012, Jeb leads the pack, with Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Indiana’s chief executive Mitch Daniels also in the mix. If it weren’t my concern (and that of many Americans) about establishing a political dynasty, I would have no qualms about backing the former Florida governor.
Jeb is a real fiscal conservative having, as Stephen Moore reminds us in the Wall Street Journal’s Political Diary (available by subscription), “regularly received an ‘A’ on the Cato fiscal report card on governors, which stands in contradistinction from his sibling’s shaky spending record.” Incoming Florida Senator and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio is a protegé of the younger Bush.
Calling Jeb the “outstanding governor” of the decade, Michael Barone outlined that good man’s accomplishments:
Operating in a state where liberal newspapers, teachers’ unions, and trial lawyers maintained a continual barrage of criticism, Bush and the Republican legislature produced the nation’s best education reform and major changes in healthcare, while Bush himself proved masterful in handling hurricane relief. One reason for the federal government’s poor response to Hurricane Katrina was that the feds were used to dealing with Jeb Bush and Florida’s competent local officials; dealing with the hapless New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco was quite a different thing.
The Floridian could, as Peter Robinson put it in 2008, “reunite the disparate elements in the GOP“. I’d rather he weren’t the brother of one president and the son of another, but Jeb Bush established a remarkable record as governor of a large, swing state. He has the temperament to lead and a record of policy reform and fiscal restraint.
Imagine him facing off in a debate against his brother’s successor. If he had a different last name, he would be my first choice to lead the GOP ticket in 2012. So maybe we should considere the man and his accomplishments, rather than his family background.