Jeb Bush’s decision to run for the presidency in 2016 reveals the conflicting impulses within the Bush family, according to Maggie Haberman of POLITICO.
George P, Jeb’s eldest son, is openly supportive of a presidential bid, but both Jeb’s mother and wife are more reluctant. Complicating matters is Jeb’s brother — former President George W. Bush — is publically encouraging, but privately indifferent.
POLITICO interviewed dozens of Bush associates and friends, finding that many of his family members are critical of a White House run, a significant matter for someone who claims family concerns will drive his decision.
Bush has repeatedly said he would make his decision by the end of the year.
Jeb Bush is the type of person who will talk with “2,000 people on a variety of subjects,” says one friend, but about his political future, it is those named Bush who are the only people with opinions that matter.
As for his brother, Haberman writes that George W. Bush says in public that he hopes that Jeb will run for president, but donors and operatives also say that privately he is somewhat ambivalent about the subject.
Freddy Ford, a George W. spokesperson, rejects such talk as “absolute drivel,” adding that the former president is “an enthusiastic supporter of Gov. Bush.”
The Bush brothers have never been particularly close — each with different, and contrasting, governing styles. Jeb is more thoughtful and deliberate, while George W. is decisive and a good delegator. With six years between the two, they a dependence on each other’s wisdom never really emerged. Haberman notes that Jeb did not spend much time visiting his brother in office, and “was never a huge booster of his brother when he was in the White House.”
Jeb also became a focal point for Democrats during the infamous 2000 election recounts, which occurred while he was Florida governor.
George H.W. Bush, the former president and Jeb’s 89-year-old father, saw the younger Bush as his best chances at redemption after losing his reelection bid.
Election Day 1994 was the turning point, when George W. won the Texas governorship while Jeb lost in Florida to incumbent Lawton Chiles. That put George W. in the forefront, and his 1998 reelection was the beginning of a presidential run, all while Jeb struggling to get a foothold.
“The joy is in Texas, but our hearts are in Florida,” the 41st president told reporters after the 1994 loss. Jeb said later that it “really hurt my parents and it kind of created an uncomfortable situation when I’ve seen George W.”
Now the same people who had backed George W. — an alliance of Republican donors and financiers — are pressuring Jeb to consider 2016. Two vocal H.W. Bush donors, Mel Sembler and Al Hoffman, are making public appeals to Jeb as the best candidate to run.
“He and I are good friends, we have great respect and affection for each other and he’s always been very solicitous of me over the years and we’ve maintained a close friendship,” Hoffman, Bush’s former campaign finance chair, told POLITICO.
A number of people who have spent time with Jeb Bush over the past year have left convinced he would never run for president, particularly because Columba, his wife of 40 years, is set against the idea. Others point out the rumor that she was also opposed to his 2002 re-election campaign for Florida governor, only to come out strongly in favor.
Of course, if Columbia were indeed “dead set” against her husband’s presidential ambitions, Jeb would not be “considering” a run as seriously as he is.
In addition, Jeb’s mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, had famously voiced her concerns over her son’s potential campaign, declaring there have been “enough Bushes” for the country.
What all this suggests, Haberman concludes, is a subject considerably more complicated than it appears to the public.