Why All the Talk About Jeb Bush?

No Republican has a lock on the nomination.
Photographer: Peter Foley/Bloomberg

Why the Jeb Bush boomlet? Brian Beutler theorizes that this isn't aboutBush, it's about the rest of the candidates. This sudden interest is:

A huge, implicit rebuke to the senators, governors and former vice presidential nominees who have been jockeying for front-runner status ever since election night in 2012. It reflects a recognition among donor class Republicans that being a conservative movement celebrity isn't synonymous with general election viability. If anything, it's an impediment. This donor/activist class schism isn't new on the right. But the emergence of firebrands like Cruz and Paul created the impression that the Republican bench ran deeper than it really does.

That's plausible, but there are three more likely explanations.

The first is the press bias in favor of taking famous names seriously. If Bush, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal had equal support right now, there would be more stories about Bush. That might be demand-driven (readers are more likely to click on stories about someone they've heard of). But it also might be because the media may overrate the chances of dynasty candidates, and famous candidates in general. If this is true, then interest in Bush is going to be overplayed, and interest in John Kasich or Marco Rubio might be underplayed.

Another possibility is that this tendency to initially overestimate famous names is happening within one segment of the party that is relatively close to reporters. Remember how some Republican Party actors mistakenly believed Rudy Giuliani was a viable choice in 2008, and that a late-entering Chris Christie could win in 2012? If that's the case with Bush, then a real boomlet could be overrated

Then there is the possibility that the Bush boom has to do with the strength, or at least the depth, of the Republican field, not the weaknesses. Republican Party actors may be looking at the large field for 2016 and worrying mainly about a long, drawn-out fight. To a lesser extent, they may be a little worried that Ted Cruz or even Rand Paul could sneak in through a divided field. They may not see Paul Ryan or Christie or the others as problems; it's just that they would prefer to short-circuit the process and move rapidly to the general-election campaign. And they see Bush as the most likely candidate to achieve that goal.

There's a fourth possibility: It's just Bush's turn to be flavor of the month.

I'm not suggesting that Bush isn't a viable candidate for the nomination; he is. But so are a dozen or so other candidates. It's wide open.

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