Today, The Washington Post's Dan Balz writes about Jeb Bush and the other Establishment candidates seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Balz spots the reason Jeb is highly unlikely to win the nominating contest, though I'm not sure he realizes he's spotted it:
Lodged firmly in the establishment wing as the son and brother of former presidents, [Bush] faces resistance on the far right and among those yearning for an outsider. His hope is that he can change perceptions of himself, outlast his rivals with superior resources and persuade Republicans that he’s their best hope to win a general election.
Sally Bradshaw, Bush’s senior adviser, said the key remains what it has been from the start of the campaign: to portray Bush as a conservative reformer by stressing what he did in Florida. “People don’t know that yet,” she said. “When that message burns in, his numbers are going to change. That’s his path.”
Do you see Jeb's problem? His plan is to say, "Yes, I'm a conservative -- look at all the conservative things I did when I was in government a million years ago." In other words, his plan for winning over voters who want not only a right-wing ideologue but an outsider is to tell people what an ideologue he was years ago, as an insider.
With that strategy, he simply can't win the nomination.
Jeb should pander. Jeb should try to appeal to conservative voters' baser instincts on hot-button current issues. That's what they want, and that's what works.
This, for instance, seems brilliant:
Dr. Ben Carson ... has launched a social media response effort to the Oregon gunman’s reported targeting of Christians in his shooting spree on a community college campus on Thursday.
In one of several consecutive Facebook posts, Carson urges his millions of followers to change their Facebook photograph to an image of a hashtag: #IAmAChristian. The other Facebook photograph shows Carson holding up a piece of paper with the words “I am a Christian” written on it.
This is shameless, and perfectly in tune with modern conservative thinking (and it actually seems like something the God-bothering Jeb could do if he didn't think it was unseemly). As I write, Carson's photo post has 1,064,030 Facebook likes and 165,067 shares, while his logo post has 263,955 likes and 117,044 shares.
This election has been a sort of pander Olympics, with the three outsiders likely to sweep the medals. Trump panders on immigration. Carson panders on the alleged incompatibility of Islam and the Constitution. Carly Fiorina panders on Planned Parenthood. (And "pander" is probably not the word I'm looking for in all cases -- Carson really seems to believe everything he says, and I think Trump believes quite a bit of what he's saying, though I have serious doubts about Fiorina.)
Last night we got this from Trump:
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said armed teachers could have protected the students who were killed in a mass shooting at a community college in Oregon this week.
“This is in light of what’s gone on in Oregon,” Trump said Saturday during a campaign stop in Franklin, Tenn., after talking about his Second Amendment stance.
“And by the way, it was a gun-free zone,” he said of the Umpqua Community College shooting Thursday.
“I’ll tell you, if you had a couple of the teachers or someone with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off,” he added.
That's how you establish yourself as a conservative now, Jeb, not by telling us what you did as an inside player when Nickelback and Creed were topping the charts.
Oh, and did I mention that we now have a poll (from TIPP and Investor's Business Daily) that has Ben Carson leading the GOP field, at 24%, with Trump at 17% (and Bush in fifth place, at 8%)? Playing to the cheap seats works (apparently better than rolling out a semi-serious tax plan, which might have been Trump's first mistake).
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog