- On Monday afternoon, Jeb Bush will announce that he's running for president, in an event at Miami-Dade Community College.
- According to advance excerpts of his speech, Bush will argue that "we will take command of our future once again in this country." He'll say his message will be "an optimistic one," and he'll tout his Florida record.
- Bush will be the 11th significant Republican to announce a campaign for president, and is generally viewed as one of the top contenders for the nomination, along with Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.
Bush has won over many GOP elites, but his performance in polls has remained weak
When Bush signaled his entrance into the race last December, the business establishment of the GOP was thrilled. There was a common perception among party elites that Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign went awry in a few related ways. He was pulled too far to the right during the primary, he made various rhetorical gaffes such as his "47 percent" comment that suggested he was uncaring, and he failed to appeal to Hispanic voters (instead suggesting that his policies would make unauthorized immigrants "self-deport").
Bush, in positioning himself for a run, promised he'd make up for all three of these shortcomings, while sticking to conservative principles. His bold-sounding declaration that a candidate should "lose the primary to win the general" signaled that he wouldn't pander to the base. Repeated statements akin to what he said in February — "I have to show that I care about people, about their future" — showed off his more compassionate rhetoric. And he seemed to have a shot at winning much more of the Hispanic vote, due to his unapologetic support for a path to legal status for unauthorized immigrants, not to mention his Mexican-born wife and fluency in Spanish.
But so far, Bush's effort has been much less successful than he initially expected. Despite reportedly raising boatloads of cash, Bush hasn't broken away from the rest of the enormous GOP field in polls, either nationally or in early states. Future nominees have been in worse shape at this point, but it hasn't been an inspiring beginning.
Bush's main problem isn't with conservatives
Bush's difficulty winning over conservatives has often been touted as an explanation for his troubles. But with so many other conservative contenders in the race, it doesn't seem likely that he was ever going to win them anyway.
Instead, Bush's most promising path to the nomination always counted on blue-state Republicans, who are more important in determining the party's nominee than many think, as the Upshot's Nate Cohn wrote in January. "Part of why McCain and Romney got the nomination is they appealed to business-class Republicans outside the South, people who are conservative but pragmatic as well. They want a viable candidate," Boston College political scientist Dave Hopkins told me last year.
These are the voters Jeb needs, and he's conservative enough that they won't worry too much about his purity. Instead, they'll be concerned about his electability — because of his last name, and his close identification with one of the most polarizing and controversial presidents in recent decades. Bush's challenge in the months ahead will be to convince these voters that he, not Scott Walker or Marco Rubio, has the best chance to defeat Hillary Clinton.