The case for Bush

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As a conservative, deciding who to support in the Republican primary is about two things:  substance and electability.

First, conservatives want to choose someone who will advance the conservative cause while rolling back the excesses of the Obama years.

Second, conservatives want to choose someone who will beat the Democratic nominee (still presumptively Hillary Clinton).

Substance without electability is, of course, pointless and ensures that Democratic control at 1600 Pennsylvania continues.

Electability without substance is a dangerous exercise, putting someone into to office who may not have the chops for the presidency, a job that requires the ability to confront and manage not only the problems discussed during a campaign, but the problems that will arise in the future – the ones that no one is currently thinking about. (Recall that Al Qaeda was not a campaign issue in 2000, nor was ISIS in 2008).

Fortunately, Republicans have a candidate who meets both requirements: Jeb Bush. Coming off a great debate performance on Saturday night, now is the time for voters to focus on his experience and his record make him the Republican nominee.

First and, most importantly for me, a conservative, is that Governor Bush has a proven record of achieving conservative goals. As governor of Florida (a position to which he was first elected in 1998, when senators Cruz and Rubio were barely out of Law School), he cut taxes, promoted economic growth, shrunk the size of state government, ended race-based affirmative action in higher education, supported crisis pregnancy centers and defunded Planned Parenthood, supported the Second Amendment and started the charter school movement in Florida — to name just a few of his many accomplishments.

Bush was one of the most successful conservative governors in the country. Given his record, it is mystifying to see Jeb characterized as less than conservative by some pundits. He is arguably one of the most conservative Republican candidates and he has proven that conservatism by governing, not just by drafting position papers of offering amendments on the Senate floor.

Governor Christie’s record in New Jersey, is unfortunately, mixed at best, with credit downgrades and Obamacare expansion. Similarly, Governor Kasich has expanded Obamacare and has, on the stump, been less than a conservative standard bearer. On a more practical level, neither of the other governors in the race has the money or infrastructure, much less the national profile, to get far beyond New Hampshire, making a vote for them essentially wasted.

Bush’s record of conservative governance will appeal to many general election voters not necessarily inclined to vote for Republican candidates. His success with Florida’s public education system through implementation of charter schools will appeal to anyone, of any race, with children in struggling schools.

Bush’s successful reform of Florida’s bureaucracy for dealing with the mentally ill will attract disability advocates.

His fluency in Spanish and popularity among Hispanics while he was Governor of Florida will be assets as well.

Jeb Bush proves that you can be conservative without being harsh, strident, or lacking in compassion. He is moderate in tone, while advancing conservative policies. That combination provides the best chance for electoral success for Republicans.

There is little need to discuss the current leader in the polls in New Hampshire, Donald Trump. A vote for him is a pure protest vote, and will lead to another eight years of a Clinton in the White House. Find another way to vent your anger if you are inclined to vote for him. And whatever he is, his support of single payer health care and partial birth abortion means he it isn’t conservative (unless insulting Mexicans and Muslims is the new face of conservatism, in which case, count me out).

Ted Cruz may be a conservative stalwart, but articulating views is easier than implementing them. Even on the legislative front, Cruz’s greatest “successes” (filibusters and a government shut-down) were failures. Moreover, it hard to see how Cruz would appeal to swing state voters who will control the election. Pull out an electoral map and ask yourself, what states does Cruz win that McCain or Romney lost? Do conservatives want to be self-satisfied in defeat, or do they want to govern?

Among serious contenders, that leaves Marco Rubio, a candidate of great promise with few concrete accomplishments. Governor Christie’s attacks on Rubio in the most recent debate – attacks which sent Rubio in to an endless talking point loop – demonstrated clearly that Rubio is not ready for prime time.

To be sure, many Republicans would love to have a young, telegenic, articulate (most of the time) Hispanic at the top of the ticket to broaden Republican demographic appeal and counter accusations of racial insensitivity. But as the Sarah Palin experiment demonstrated, chasing telegenic demographic appeal and hoping the substance will eventually come through is a dangerous strategy.

To be clear, I hope Rubio has more substance than Palin and will grow into the job if he becomes the nominee, but I don’t know that he will, and his debate performance did nothing to allay my fears that he is a programmed talking point machine. It is telling that among Florida officials who worked with (and like) both Bush and Rubio, nearly all endorse Bush.

Jeb Bush may not be new and exciting, but he is proven, he is conservative, and he can beat Hillary Clinton and do the job as President. New Hampshire Republicans that want to win the general election knowing that an accomplished conservative can implement a conservative agenda should vote for Bush and send him on to the Republican nomination.