This Marc Ambinder column on Jeb Bush strikes me as basically correct. Bush isn’t a moderate Republican. He is a candidate of the business lobby consensus (a consensus he seem to entirely believe in). I have a few things to add:
1. Ambinder is a little harsh on the Tea Party populist conservatives. Tea-partiers aren’t against governing. They don’t trust the Washington political elites and they are frustrated. Rank-and-file Tea Partiers lack a clear and plausible alternative governing agenda, but that is because they are normal human beings and that is not how normal people relate to politics. They can be won over by a positive agenda that speaks to their values and priorities. To the extent there is not a realistic Tea Party agenda, it is an indictment of the various pols (some of them outright charlatans) who have sought the support of Tea Partiers.
2. Ambinder argues that Bush needs a middle-class agenda. Part of his column could have been written by Yuval Levin or Reihan Salam. But what if Bush actually believes that the Chamber of Commerce agenda is the middle-class agenda that people need? My sense is that the GOP K Street complex has been getting more confident and more insular lately.
3. The key for Bush is to become the consensus establishment candidate by Iowa at the latest. Bush could probably beat Ted Cruz and Rand Paul (and various other right-populist characters) if it is Bush against a bunch of candidates bidding for the support of the Tea Party. As Ramesh Ponnuru wrote, the nightmare scenario is one where Christie and/or Romney get enough establishment money that the establishment candidates empty their bank accounts in the course of destroying each other’s approval ratings. A very lucky Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, or Marco Rubio might slip through under those circumstances .
4. I wouldn’t count Bush out in a general election even if he doesn’t adopt a middle-class agenda. Bush is a smart, principled, likeable guy. If the 2016 Republican nominee is going to run using a Made On K Street strategy, Bush would run that strategy about as well Chris Christie or Scott Walker.