I don’t entirely disagree with Rich’s observation that Jeb is yesterday’s conservative, who has been bypassed by the reinvigoration of the Right brought about by Obama’s excesses. But I think there’s another side to it. If Jeb were to serve as governor of Florida again, his actions in those areas of responsibility where states are paramount — especially education and state taxation and regulation — would likely still be conservative. It seems to me that Jeb’s real problem is that some of his views are unfit for the national conservative stage, rather than the state, and always have been.
Even before the effervescence of the Tea Party in 2009–10, conservative voters were opposed to federal takeover of education and skeptical of open immigration. As governor, it was perfectly appropriate for him to establish new statewide standards for schools and, from what little I know of the matter, they seem to have been successful. But he made the mistake of applying that same thinking to the national level, something conservatives have opposed long before the Tea Party; in fact, the Republican platform of 1980 called for the abolition of the Department of Education just two months after the department came into being. In contrast, Jeb’s views on immigration — a combination of sentimentalism with corporate cronyism — have never been shared by the Republican base, but as governor they had little saliency, since it’s mainly a matter for the national government.
So his sound views on education are unsuited to an area where the national government should have little role, and his unsound views on immigration are unsuited to an area where the federal role is paramount. Even if his name weren’t Bush, Jeb would not be an appropriate standard-bearer for the national GOP in 2016.