Jeb Bush 2016: Is He the Top Candidate for Republicans?

Jeb-Bush-2016-presidentA staunch environmentalist, a conservative pro-life Republican who has a strong appeal for Hispanics, is pro-immigration and pro-Common Core – Jeb Bush announced his intent to run for President of the United States on June 15th, in Miami, Florida. Could the final ticket read Jeb Bush 2016?

Background and Family

Jeb (John Ellis) Bush is both son and brother to two former Presidents, George H.W. Bush (President from 1989-1993) and George W. Bush (President from 2001-2009). He is married to Columba Garnica de Gallo, whom he met in Mexico in 1970.

Bush, in a student exchange summer program in 1970, taught English and helped build schools in Ibarilla, Mexico. In addition, he graduated from the University of Texas magna cum laude with a B.A. in Latin American Affairs.

Bush pursued a career in real estate after that and volunteered for both of his father’s campaigns to the presidency, before becoming Governor of Florida for two consecutive terms (1998-2006).

His Voter Advantage

Bush’s career shows a continuing love affair with Latin America and because of this, Hispanic voters. In 1977, he opened a new operation for the Texas Commerce Bank in Caracas, Venezuela, in the dual role of vice president and branch manager. Around 1980, after moving to Florida with his family, Bush eventually became a partner in the real estate firm The Codina Group, founded by Cuban immigrant-turned-millionaire Armando Codina.

Jeb Bush has always been a strong and clear advocate of Cuban immigrants in Florida. In one specific case in 1985, he appealed to then-Vice President Bush to help him sort out an issue of 77 illegal Cuban immigrants detained in El Paso, Texas. In 1989, he acted as campaign manager of Cuban-American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who was successfully elected to Congress.

Jeb Bush was elected Governor of Florida in 1998 on 61% of the Hispanic vote and 14% of the African-American vote, two demographics that are traditionally Democrat. He was re-elected in 2002, adding 44% of the Jewish vote and a larger than anticipated percentage of the white female vote.

In addition, Jeb Bush is currently the most likely Republican candidate. A new joint NBC-WSJ poll shows that 22% of the Republican primary voters would vote for him as their first choice. He is five percentage points ahead of Scott Walker (at 17%) and eight ahead of Marco Rubio (at 14%). He also leads in the poll with 75% of the respondents saying they would vote for him (in general).

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However, it is generally realized that Bush’s appeal stretches clearly beyond the Republican “ideal”. His stands on immigration and education create an appeal that touches centrist Republicans, and may appeal to a large number of Democrats and independent voters. Also, his clear position on protection of faith and conscience in the questions of abortion and gay marriage may yet win over part of the Republican right.

Policy Stances

Education

The Common Core State Standards Initiative for education was created by the National Governors Association, mandating test standards in math and English for elementary and high school students. However, it has become a political issue, because Republicans feel that the Common Core amounts to federal interference in education.

This is where Jeb Bush enters, and where he might exit. Currently, he is the only Republican presidential candidate remaining who is unequivocally for the Common Core, although he supports state right to follow it or not.

Jeb Bush says in an interview on Fox News:

The simple fact is that we need higher standards, that need to be state-driven.

How will he get Republican voters to agree with him? He answers: “I’m going to tell them what I think, which is that high standards are better than low standards.”

How will he get Republican voters to agree with him? He answers: “I’m going to tell them what I think, which is that high standards are better than low standards.”

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Bush’s stint as Governor of Florida bears out his beliefs. He instituted a grading system for schools, A-F, based on the test scores of their students. Students are also required to meet certain grade standards before moving to the next grade. While this places more pressure on both the teachers and the students to score higher in general, it also raised the top schools (rated A or B) from 21% in the start of his term (1999) to 72% in 2012.

Immigration

Jeb Bush is openly supportive of a path to legal status for illegal immigrants. In the same interview with Fox News, he says:

I think illegal immigration ought to be punished. By coming out from the shadows, earning legal status over an extended period of time, where you pay a fine, where you work, where you don’t receive government assistance, where you learn English, where you’re deported if you commit a crime, as is the law.

Bush describes all other options as impractical. He supports “economic immigration” rather than “family immigration”, and states that immigration reform should take encouragement of immigration for economic development into account.

During his speech, in which he declared that he would run for president on June 15, Bush responds to those protesting his preference for “legal status” to “citizenship,” saying that immigration reform needs to be done, but that it should pass through the proper channels, and not through executive action.

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Foreign Policy

Jeb Bush holds a vision of America as leading the world in peace, security, and stability, which has been, he observes, its de facto role since World War II – at least, before the Obama Administration.

In a speech at the Detroit Economic Club in 2014, Bush says: “The United States has an undiminished ability to to shape events and build alliances of free people. We can project power and enforce peaceful stability in far-off areas of the globe. […] Because I believe, fundamentally, that weakness invites war…and strength encourages peace.”

The United States has an undiminished ability to to shape events and build alliances of free people. We can project power and enforce peaceful stability in far-off areas of the globe. […] Because I believe, fundamentally, that weakness invites war…and strength encourages peace.

More currently, Bush has taken a stand that calls for open defense of Israel against a possible Iranian nuclear threat. He also recommends “taking out” ISIS, with an eye to resisting terrorism. Security aside, he also calls for more trade deals to be opened in the Pacific Rim and with Europe, with hopes of expanding the economy.

Could It Be Jeb Bush 2016?

Studying Bush’s background and current policy stands, two things emerge. One is that Bush might have a strong enough pull to challenge a Democrat candidate, given his appeal to the traditionally Democrat non-white voters. The second is that Bush is a presidential candidate seemingly not afraid to stand for his personal advocacies as they relate to policy. In the election race 2016, Bush is a candidate to watch.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she’s not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.