Jeb Bush seeks to overcome last name, pre-candidacy stumbles to win GOP nomination

Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. (Reuters/Steve Nesius)
As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush announces his bid for president, he will have to overcome more than just his last name to win over GOP voters and snag the Republican nomination in 2016.

With several notable gaffes hamstringing his campaign before it was even announced and being seen as too moderate and establishment to win the conservative wing of the party, there is already an impression that Bush ‒ born John Ellis Bush ‒ is a long-shot candidate to take on the Democrats in the general election.

“He just hasn’t met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a former Republican presidential nominee who supports Lindsay Graham's presidential bid, told the New York Times.

Not another Bush

Many Americans are tired of seeing the names Bush and Clinton at the top of the ballot. And Jeb Bush’s assistance in getting his brother elected in Florida ‒ over President Bill Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore ‒ in the 2000 election, has indelibly linked him to President George W. Bush.

“There’s a bias against him ‒ that he’s another Bush, that somehow he’s a moderate ‒ that isn’t fair and that he has to work to overcome,” Andrew H. Card Jr., a family friend who was President George W. Bush’s White House chief of staff and who led the Department of Transportation under President George H.W. Bush, told the NY Times. “The key thing is he will have the financial resources, and the political maturity, to take the time to try to win people over.”

In an attempt to distance himself from his presidential relatives, Bush’s campaign logo, which debuted on Sunday, does not include his last name.

So many Republicans

By waiting so long to announce his candidacy, Bush may get lost in a crowded field of competition. Although he was one of the first Republicans to form an exploratory committee, he’s sat back as candidate after candidate ‒ including his political mentee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio ‒ announced their bids for president.

"I didn’t think I was going to be back up here again because, frankly, I thought Jeb would take up all the oxygen," potential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in the early voting state of New Hampshire at the beginning of June. "He hasn't."

Iraq invasion confusion

Everyone knew the question was coming. Everyone, it seems, except Bush himself. When Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked him in May if, “knowing what we know now,” he would have made the same decision his brother made in 2003 and invaded Iraq, Bush fumbled his answer.

“I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got,” Bush responded.

Several days later, he walked back that response, though the damage was already done.

"Knowing what we know now, I would have not engaged. I would have not gone into Iraq," Bush said that Thursday.

A very WASP-y Latino

Despite his noted White Anglo-Saxon Protestant roots (or, as he likes to call it since his conversion to Catholicism, “White Anglo-Saxon Catholic”), Bush apparently filled in the wrong ethnicity on his 2009 voter registration form, selecting ‘Hispanic’ instead of ‘Caucasian’.

Even his son, Jeb Bush Jr., responded to the news by sending a tweet to his father that read “LOL—come on dad, think you checked the wrong box #HonoraryLatino.”

While he isn’t, in fact, Hispanic, his wife was born in Mexico, and he has strong ties to the Hispanic community.

Attacks on public schools

Bush has consistently attacked traditional public education, calling them “politicized, unionized monopolies” and “government-run monopolies run by unions,” according to the Washington Post. Instead, he promotes charter schools and school vouchers. He favors high-stakes standardized testing for “accountability,” a position that is falling out of favor due to consecutive national reforms ‒ No Child Left Behind and the Common Core curriculum ‒ that have failed to raise the United States’ education standing internationally.

Illegal immigration is an 'act of love'

Republicans view Bush as out of step on immigration. They seek to clamp down on illegal immigration, while he has seemingly welcomed undocumented workers into the US.

“The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families‒ the dad who loved their children ‒was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table,” Bush said during an event marking the 25th anniversary of the presidency of George H. W. Bush in 2014.

“And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family,” he continued. “I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families."

A rusty introvert

Bush hasn’t run a campaign since 2002, when he won reelection of the Florida governorship with 56 percent of the vote. He’s been out of the political machine since leaving that position in 2007.

“There’s a little bit of rust on him,” Bob Martinez, a former Florida governor who is now raising money for Bush, told the NY Times. “He’s still finding his rhythms.”

And that’s hard for a self-described introvert, as being around people depletes his energy.

“Personally, I’m an introvert. I’m not, like, a gregarious guy, who needs the energy of a crowd to make me feel fulfilled. I’d rather read a 20-page policy brief,” he said, according to the Washington Post. “So I just met a whole new group of people. We did a lot of interesting things.”

Despite the missteps and lost momentum, though, Bush thinks he will be able to gain ground on the crowded field and win the nomination.

“People make up their minds in the last weeks of these primaries,” Bush told CNN in a recent interview. “My expectation is we’ll have slow, steady progress. That’s been the expectation all along.”