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Charlie Cook on Jeb’s national favorability problem

in Top Headlines by

Ah, brothers. Such an embarrassment sometimes. Jimmy Carter had Billy the beer-swilling redneck, Bill Clinton had Roger the cocaine distributor and Lyndon Johnson had Sam Houston, the other beer-swilling redneck.

The conventional wisdom is that Jeb Bush will have something of an albatross around his neck owing to his brother’s relatively unpopular tenure in the White House — so then why is he polling less favorably than George W. Bush among Republican primary voters?, asks Charlie Cook in National Journal:

While 86 percent of those who identified themselves as Democratic primary voters said they could see themselves supporting Clinton (13 percent could not), just 49 percent of Republican primary voters said they could see themselves supporting Jeb Bush (42 percent said they could not). Indeed, greater percentages of Republican primary voters were able to envision supporting Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, or [Scott] Walker, or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, than could picture backing Bush.

When asked to choose between two statements—”This is a time when it is important to look for a more experienced and tested person even if he or she brings fewer changes to the current policies,” and “This is a time when it is important to look for a person who will bring greater changes to the current policies even if he or she is less experienced and tested”—59 percent chose change over experience, while just 38 percent preferred experience over change. All registered voters were then asked the same question about both Bush and Clinton: whether each represented “too much of a return to the policies of the past” or “would provide the new ideas and vision the country will need for the future.” Sixty percent of those surveyed said that Bush represented a return to the past, while 27 percent said he’d provide new ideas and vision; for Clinton, 51 percent saw her as a return to the past, while 44 percent saw her bringing new ideas and vision.

Of course, Jeb is still by many accounts the favorite to take the GOP nomination or at least among the front-runners, but the recent favorability poll conducted by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal does raise questions about his national profile.

Unquestionably, Bush is going to raise more money than any other Republican, and that gives him some advantages. But it is also clear that he faces political headwinds within his party, some related to his moderate positions on immigration and education, but some because he is somehow seen as more of a reflection of the past than Hillary Clinton is. Like an onion, this campaign is going to have lots of layers.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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