The Underlying Message Behind Jeb Bush’s Neutrality in the 2012 Republican Florida Primary


With the impending GOP Florida Primary set for today, there is one outstanding politician whose vote hasn’t yet been accounted for. Along with Mitt Romney’s eager campaign, the rest of the world has been waiting to see which presidential candidate former Florida Governor Jeb Bush would endorse. Although a Bush endorsement would be a trophy to any candidate in the Sunshine State, the former governor of Florida has definitely chosen to remain neutral.

Despite the fact that Bush was not the first significant politician to omit endorsement in the GOP debates (Gov. Terry Branstad in Iowa and Sen. Jim DeMint in South Carolina are other examples), there may be an underlying reason behind the former Republican governor’s strict choice to remain impartial. Although he has repeatedly denied rumors concerning running for the presidency in 2012, Republicans should entertain the thought that the former governor might actually aspire to run for office himself one day.

Jeb’s father, former president George H.W. Bush has already endorsed Romney, the clear established candidate for the Florida primary, and the general GOP favorite. The fact that his son has not followed suit sends a clear message. Although both George H.W. and Jeb’s brother, former president George W. Bush, have not been popular leaders, Jeb is widely respected enough to have a shot at the presidency.

In fact, there are several other clues as to Jeb’s future political plans. In an interview in Sarasota, Fla., a few weeks ago, former first lady Laura Bush admitted that she and husband George W. wanted Jeb to run for presidency in 2012. She attested that they “wish he would” run in the future, and that he would make a “wonderful” president, citing his work on education and commitment to public policy as strong presidential qualities.

Although Jeb has remained mysterious about this decision, his plan to remain neutral is unsurprising in light of possible future presidential plans.

Consider the sharp decline in Romney's numbers right after South Carolina. Similarly, Gingrich's polls have started falling since Florida. Despite all predictions, this shows how Republican opinion remains split and unstable. Neither candidate has closed the deal. In the event of Santorum dropping out following the Florida Primary, this uncertainty will continue, with lack lustered Republicans divided on who to vote for.

Jeb Bush would potentially unify the divided Republican front, and provide a refreshing alternative to the unsatisfactory Republican candidates running in 2012. Assuming that political divisions and unelectability force a Republican loss in November, the party will be downtrodden ahead of the next presidential election.  Emerging at a critical time in 2016, Jeb may lead the disheartened party to potential victory. Provided with this opportunity, how could Jeb endorse Romney, or any other candidate? A possible endorsement of a losing candidate would be a smear on the former governor’s record. Additionally, although he would never endorse Gingrich, endorsing Romney would potentially alienate Jeb from other conservatives.

If he is indeed contemplating running for president, it is in Jeb Bush’s interests to steer clear of today’s politics in the Florida primary, and indeed, this year’s presidential election. Having done so, he would have an increased chance at success when he does decide to run for office.

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