We recently wrote in amazement, that Jeb Bush reportedly said he would try to govern -- were he to run and be elected president -- like LBJ. The only comparison that is accurate: both men profited greatly from connections made while in office. LBJ -- penniless to start -- became a multi-millionaire through a string of radio stations. Jeb -- born into one of the wealthiest political families in the US -- served on high paying board seats on corporations like Lehman Brothers; the biggest bond dealer (while it existed) to the State of Florida. Jeb, according to his high-flying comrade-in-arms, Al Cardenas, has been enjoying the life of a private equity mogul without any qualifications beyond politics.
Jeb does have what the Cook Report recently described as a re-branding problem. Whereas fellow Florida political traveler Marco Rubio tried re-branding himself as the son of Castro victims as though no one was looking, everyone was looking as Jeb's brother, George W., led the United States into a multi-trillion dollar disaster in Iraq. George W. may be re-branding himself as on outsider artist, but his own insider connections propelled him to be the Republican candidate for president after Jeb lost to a popular Florida governor, Lawton Chiles, in 1994 who was no slouch in re-branding either.
Draw your own conclusions if this re-branding game seems unworthy of an American electorate more in tune with the next big thing in cellular phones than presidents. But Jeb has high hurdles in terms of re-branding, where so many have gone before him.
From the Cook Report:
"For Bush, the unusually high negative ratings he scores in the polls, the focus-group reaction, and other anecdotal evidence suggest that he is like the guy whose older brother banged up the family car. Jeb Bush is being perceived more as part of a brand that was badly damaged by his brother and less by anything specifically related to him. How closely did critics watch his time as governor, and are they actually familiar with own political positions? This looks more like guilt by association than anything else; maybe voters will end up liking and agreeing with him, maybe they won't, but it doesn't look like he is being judged on his own terms. To succeed with rank-and-file voters—first Republicans, and later all general-election voters—he has to rebrand himself so that he will be perceived independently of his brother. Republican elites of the Wall Street, Fortune 500-executive, and GOP donor classes get the distinction, but it appears to be lost on nonelites. Bush starts off with a lot of big advantages over the rest of the field but he has a major image challenge that no other Republican has to face."As Florida's governor, Jeb was notoriously thin-skinned and impatient. He was a micro-manager who quickly punished disloyalty both within his ranks and especially when input from others contradicted his predetermined outcomes. While governor, Jeb was not -- by any metric -- a moderate.
It is interesting to watch the Republican message machine, highly structured and well-organized, position its various presidential hopefuls so that Jeb does have the opportunity to re-brand himself as conservative enough to win the primary and moderate enough, and different enough from George W., to win the general election in 2016. Think of this effort, not as handicapping a horse race, so much as a syndicate organizing a group of horses in a marquee race so that it its own chosen favorite can move to the front of the pack at the final turn to the finish line.
In other words, Marco Rubio doesn't stand a chance. So far, the rest are just pacers. The primary is for Jeb to win, is the message being delivered to the big Republican donors. And as for "governing like LBJ" if elected president? There's a laugh track for that, the ordinary voter does not get to hear.