I’m still don’t have the heart to take up Ramesh Ponnuru’s challenge and pick among those three, but, just as I compared Christie and Romney earlier, I would like to compare Romney and Jeb Bush today:
Jeb Bush is more of a conviction politician and more of a political natural than Romney. Unlike with Romney, Bush’s positions on guns are not, I get the sense, driven entirely by coalitional politics. I remember hearing a 2009 forum that included Romney and Jeb Bush. Bush was by far the better speaker. As a candidate, Bush would very likely be more likeable than Romney, and he would need less prodding to build a campaign around center-right solutions for the middle class.
The problem with Jeb Bush (other than the political baggage of his surname) has to do with immigration. He seems to genuinely believe in increasing future immigration flows for all skill levels. This is a pretty common position among Republican political elites, but Bush seems more serious about it than most.
I don’t doubt that Chris Christie and Scott Walker share the opinion of the majority of GOP lobbyists, consultants, and donors. It is the social world they live in. The serious people believe in Gang of Eight–style immigration reform, and the intraparty opposition is made up of the kind of folks who wear funny hats and wave around flags with snakes. Romney probably believed in much the same thing before he stated running for president and figured out the politics of the GOP nominating electorate.
Maybe the immigration-policy preferences of Christie and Walker are as lightly held as those of Romney. If that is the case, then maybe opponents of Gang of Eight–style immigration reform might reach a reasonable compromise with those candidates.
Bush is another case. He seems to strongly believe this stuff — and good for him for having principles. While Bush might have a theoretical limit on the amount of future immigration he might want, I doubt that limit is likely to be reached by any outcome of our current politics. He is a pragmatic politician and will take what he can get, but he will always be looking for more. Anything about enforcement is just boob bait. The enforcement will be structured to be implemented sometime after the legalization of the current population of unauthorized immigrants, the increase of future immigration flows, and the conclusion of a conference to be held by Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the next pro-life Democrat president. A Jeb Bush presidency is a virtual guarantee that internal enforcement measures will not be implemented — just as internal enforcement was not implemented under his brother’s presidency. When it comes to immigration, the best that we can hope for from a Jeb Bush presidency is a continuation of our present policy stalemate. If immigration is a deal breaker, I guess there you go.