Jeb Bush moves to Republican front-runner for the presidency

Your move, everyone else: If you can get past the idea for a minute of a potential Bush-Clinton showdown and American political dynasties, Jeb Bush taking a step forward for the 2016 presidential campaign was a major move Tuesday. He doesn’t clear the field, but he will likely rocket to front-runner status — for now. “It certainly sets the pace for the rest of the field instead of reacting to others that may have gotten in first,” Kevin Madden, who was a senior adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and spokesman in 2008, told Morning Line. Bush won’t be a front-runner the way Hillary Clinton is on the Democratic side, but don’t be surprised if he leads in most, if not all, GOP primary polling for at least the next few months. Romney, who was never likely to run, is now almost certainly out, and that means he will likely fade from all those polls showing him in the lead. Beyond the polls — and the scrutiny front-runner status brings — the big key here is money. Donors have been saying for months that they want a signal. That’s what all the Romney noise has been about. “The upside is that it gives him and his team an edge in locking down top donors, staff and party leaders in early states,” Madden added.

‘Proven fundraising network’: Bush’s big advantage over the rest of the field, if he runs, is with the money he will be able to raise. He will be able to immediately put in place a top-flight campaign and long-term primary plan. “He walks in with a proven fundraising network that’s won three national presidential elections,” a former Bush presidential campaign official told Morning Line. “They’re now able to go to those people and say, ‘You don’t need to go anywhere else, and you call it home. … Other candidates, they look at today, and they say, ‘What’s this do to my list” of donors? Someone like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the other likely contender for the “establishment” slot, can point to his fundraising network and say he can compete, especially with the likes of Home Depot founder Ken Langone in his pocket. But his network “hasn’t done it at the national presidential level,” the Bush official said.

Bush’s path: Bush has two more big strengths in addition to money — demographics and the map. He speaks fluent Spanish, is married to a Mexican woman and has the potential to expand the GOP tent in a way most other Republicans can’t. That has to worry Democrats. One Democratic campaign veteran e-mailed Morning Line, “The Republicans must be happy to have a seemingly sober driver in their car. Democrats will sit back and watch what he does with half-curiosity and half-wariness.” Bush’s other advantage is the map. “He comes in with Florida and Texas,” said the Bush campaign official. Since Pat Robertson ran in 1988, there have been two primaries within the primary for Republicans — the “Establishment” and the “Conservative/Evangelical” path. With the modern Republican calendar, that means if a candidate can win Iowa and South Carolina and another can win New Hampshire and Florida, they earn a bid to the GOP finals. Bush’s biggest competition for the Establishment path appears to be Christie. Rubio wouldn’t probably run if Jeb runs, because they have a similar donor base. Rand Paul can always be a spoiler in New Hampshire, but can he go the distance? Can Scott Walker be a crossover? But will Bush go for so narrow a path and not give a full push in a place like Iowa or South Carolina? Allies of his aren’t so sure. “This is a big personality with a big record,” said the former Bush campaign official.

The downside to getting in early: Signaling that you’re likely to get into the race can have potential downsides, too. “The downside is that the glare of the hot lights that is always saved for the front-runner are now focused on him a bit earlier than expected,” Madden said. The former Bush official acknowledged that, but noted the amount of attention Bush has already received, pointing out that more than half a dozen reporters attended Bush’s University of South Carolina commencement speech earlier this week. “What? Will there be five more reporters?” the official said. “He’s a target now; he’s a target anywhere.”

About that conservative opposition: Of course, Bush getting the nomination will be FAR from a cake walk. First, he has to get through a primary with potentially a dozen contenders chomping at the bit. He will need to defend his more moderate-than-the-base-stances on immigration (he’s for a path to legalization) and education (he’s strongly for Common Core). Don’t sleep on Common Core as a major conservative primary issue. Plus, there’s the rustiness factor. Remember, he hasn’t campaigned for elective office in 12 years. How nimble will he be? How nimble will his campaign be? Can they can run a 21st Century campaign? Will they be ready to make the case and lean into his policies? Bush’s name will also likely be an issue in the primary, but even more so in a general election if he gets that far. Operatives say Jeb will likely try to separate himself from his brother, George W., by saying he loves his father; he loves his brother, but to judge him on HIS record. But he will still have to answer the questions — what he would do differently than George W.? Did he agree with the decision to go into Iraq? And, remember, his announcement that he’s “actively” exploring a bid comes within a week of the release of the CIA interrogation report.

See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya, 113th Congress: The 113th Congress adjourned last night, ending the least productive session in recent American history. Our friends at First Read have the numbers: “[O]nly 203 bills have been signed into public law so far during the past two years — down from the 112th Congress’ previous record low of 283.” NewsHour’s Quinn Bowman reports: Late last night the US Senate approved more than two dozen more of President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees. The Senate approved 69 such nominees since Friday, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office. Though Reid says they could have done better. The Senate also easily passed a bill extending tax breaks to a variety of businesses, the so-called “tax extenders.” On Jan. 6, the new U.S. Senate will return under Republican control. It’ll be important to watch for whether incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell allows for a more open amendment process and if Democrats block and filibuster to the level their GOP counterparts did in the past several years. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin summed up Congress, “Thank God! It’s over!

Quote of the day: “It is fitting that the first night of Hanukkah falls this year on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The same spirit of freedom that inspired the Maccabees to rise up against a foreign empire motivated our founding fathers to rebel against the crown on that fateful night.” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry on the first night of Hanukkah. He added, “Our republic, like the light of the ancient menorah, has lasted longer than anyone could have predicted.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1992, President George H. W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. Which president negotiated the Canada–United States Free Trade Agreement, which NAFTA replaced? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Anthony R. (@AntBenjiMan) and Darran Hanson (@darranhanson) for guessing Tuesday’s trivia: who was the first African American to be appointed to a cabinet-level position and under which president? The answer was: Robert C. Weaver, Lyndon Johnson’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.


  • Democratic opposition research group American Bridge is already out with a video wrapping the conservative opposition to Jeb Bush.

  • Americans’ favorability of Republicans rose from 33 percent before the midterm elections to 47 percent — its highest in eight years — in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Wednesday.

  • Drawing their session to a close, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed Sarah Saldaña as director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Antony Blinken as deputy secretary of state.

  • The Senate also passed a two-week tax bill that extends expired tax breaks for 2014 filing. “This tax bill doesn’t have the shelf life of a carton of eggs,” said Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, who voted against it.

  • A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled Tuesday that President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which were announced in late November, are unconstitutional.

  • President Obama signed an executive memorandum blocking drilling in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, which is home to some of the nation’s top commercial fisheries. Alaska’s Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski said she does not object to the president’s action.

  • Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that the Senate’s first order of business in the new Congress will be a measure to construct the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  • Accepting the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights award in New York Tuesday, Hillary Clinton said torture should be banned.

  • South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Tuesday he’s considering a presidential bid in 2016 but that given the nature of GOP primaries he’d have trouble with tea party voters.

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is taking over as the new House Oversight and Government Reform committee chair and he’s making it clear that his chairmanship will look nothing like Darrell Issa’s.

  • Granite State Democrats are getting ready to challenge New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte in 2016, a seat they hope will bring them one step closer to retaking the majority.

  • A wealthy Ecuadorian woman previously banned from entry to the U.S. won entry after donating tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic campaigns. The State Department, under Secretary Hillary Clinton, overturned the ban with urging from New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez.

  • A former staffer for Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, is suing the congressman saying he created a hostile work environment by discussing “sexual fantasies” and drinking excessively.

  • Sens. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are no longer going to be roommates, after retiring Rep. George Miller sold the house the two Democrats have rented out for more than 20 years. The new owner offered to let Durbin and Schumer stay, but they would have had to pay more than the $800 in rent they each fork over now, and find a new roommate.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Rachel Wellford at rwellford-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: