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Jeb Bush takes on potential weaknesses

Jeb Bush addresses what would be two potential weaknesses in a GOP primary
Bush addresses what would be two potential weaknesses in a GOP primary

Well, Jeb Bush knows how to grab the spotlight during a relatively quiet week in American politics. Speaking on Sunday at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of his father’s presidency, Bush 1) said he would make up his mind about a presidential run by the end of the year (something he’s said before, but this setting gave that announcement more attention), 2) stated that Republicans have “lost our way,” and 3) addressed what would be potential weaknesses in a GOP primary -- his support for immigration reform and Common Core. “Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony; it’s an act of love,” he said of undocumented immigrants. “It’s a different kind of crime.” And on his advocacy for Common Core, Bush added, “I just don’t feel compelled to run for cover when I think this is the right thing to do for our country.” These issues could be two Achilles Heels for him in a competitive Republican primary, in part because they are such raw, emotional issues. (Remember how immigration dogged John McCain in ’07 and ’08, and how it helped knock down Rick Perry in ’11.) But what Bush was essentially signaling on Sunday is that if he runs -- and we continue to stress the word “IF” -- is that he’ll defend both positions in equally emotional terms. Illegal immigration is an “act of love,” because people are looking for a better way of life for their families. And Common Core “is the right thing to do for our country.”

Why immigration and Common Core are so potent

Both issues are potent enough inside the GOP that one or more possible Bush primary opponents will feel easily compelled to use them as an attempt to make themselves look like the “real conservative” or the “real anti-establishment” candidate. And because they are so raw and emotional, the more logical debate points some want to make in order to table these discussions on education and immigration (demographics and globalization) just don’t seem to work.

The weakness he didn't address

But there was another potential weakness in a GOP primary Bush didn't address: how his party has broken away from his brother’s presidency. Today’s Republican Party is against bailouts (TARP), unpaid-for spending (Medicare Part D), big federal initiatives (No Child Left Behind), and stimulus spending (the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008). What’s more, the GOP also has become more wary about intervening in foreign conflicts (remember the debate about using military force in Syria?) and more concerned about the surveillance state (the RNC resolution against the NSA program the Bush administration created). Now, part of this GOP opposition is due to the current occupant than his predecessor. But it does reflect just how far removed today’s Republican Party is from the GOP of 2001-2008. And that will be a big challenge for Jeb Bush -- he’s going to have to defend his brother’s presidency, and that’s probably the biggest hurdle for him personally in deciding whether to run. He wants to be judged on his own positions; it will gall him to no end if he’s somehow judged based on his brother.

High turnout and low violence in Afghanistan

On Friday, we wrote about how Saturday’s presidential election in Afghanistan had become the “forgotten election.” Well, that forgotten election went better than anyone had predicted. “Conducted under armed guard, the country’s third presidential election since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001 unfolded without the large-scale attacks or major disruptions that many Afghans had feared, although scores of minor attacks were reported,” the Washington Post writes. “As the process moves to a vote count that could take weeks and, potentially, lead to a second-round runoff, voters and observers expressed relief that the day had ended in relative peace. ‘The turnout was far beyond what we had imagined,’ said Zia ul-Haq Amarkhail, a senior Afghan election official, as polls closed.” Of course, this is Part 1 of the election story; Part 2 will be whether there is legitimacy in the results and we won’t know the likely runoff participants for weeks.

Obama focuses on equal pay for women

The AP says that President Obama “will sign an executive order Tuesday barring federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with each other. The order is similar to language in a Senate bill aimed at closing a pay gap between men and women. That measure is scheduled for a vote this week, but is unlikely to pass. The president also will direct the Labor Department to adopt rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data based on sex and race. He plans to sign the two executive orders during an event at the White House where he will be joined by Lilly Ledbetter, whose name appears on a pay discrimination law Obama signed in 2009.” Politically, this is all about Democrats trying to concentrate on winning the female vote in the midterm elections. Meanwhile, Obama today heads to Bladensburg, MD, where he’ll talk about the economy and education at 11:35 am ET.

Focusing on North Carolina

Turning to the midterms, and piggybacking on The Daily Rundown’s focus this week on North Carolina, it’s worth pointing out how North Carolina’s Senate contest might very well be the most fascinating race of 2014 – THE bellwether. Why? The overall political environment there features an unpopular Democratic president (Barack Obama), an unpopular Republican governor (Pat McCrory), a fired-up GOP base (the Tea Party, the legislature’s aggressive activity), a fired-up Democratic base (those Moral Monday protests), and a state could still be a battleground state in 2016 (due to its demographics). If there is on Senate race that comes closest to us for being our “desert island” result contest -- meaning what’s the ONE result you’d want to have IF you could only have one result on Election Day 2014 -- it’s North Carolina. The environment is more likely to decide this race than the candidates themselves, barring a Tea Party upset on the GOP side of things.

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