The Campaign Spot

Welcome to CPAC, Jeb Bush. Good Luck with the Crowd!

Also in today’s Jolt:

Welcome to CPAC, Jeb Bush. Good Luck with the Crowd!

Welcome to CPAC, readers!

Maybe the most interesting reception to watch today? At 1:30 p.m. Eastern, Jeb Bush will “participate in a question and answer session with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.” Let’s see how the crowd responds, as there’s considerable evidence that there’s a lot of Jeb-skepticism out there among conservatives.

Jay Cost:

Jeb certainly looks to be cornering the market on the modern variety of professional Republicans, but he too will have to do more. What is the case for a Bush restoration, beyond the fact that it would make the professional GOP comfortable once again? Why should average Republican primary voters — the insurance salesmen and truck drivers, not pollsters and policy advisors — choose Jeb over Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, or the dozen other potential nominees?

Here’s Politico’s Mike Allen Wednesday, offering a perspective with completely valid historical points but one that I think completely misreads the actual mood of the Republican party:

What should be the presidential race of a lifetime (open nomination in both parties) is starting to look like a slog and maybe even a snore. Barring a major disruption in the force field, it’s looking like Hillary vs. Jeb, and the same might still be true a year from now. The new dynamic of the GOP race, once totally up for grabs, is that someone has to knock out Jeb. It could be Walker, it could be Rubio, it could be Rand — but it’ll be hard. The D.C. chatter is that for all Bush’s advantages in the invisible primary, he has yet to encounter random voters, or perform strongly in an unscripted (or even scripted!) setting. Bush skeptics wonder over drinks if he’s Phil Gramm from ‘96 — huge war chest, but a paper tiger.

But here’s the rub: There’s no post-Reagan instance of a Republican candidate who locks up the center right slot, plus big donors and the clear establishment blessing, then loses the nomination — Bush 41, Dole, Bush 43, McCain, Romney. Obviously, this trend could break. But based on what we know about modern campaigns, Bush 45 looks very strong for the nomination at this point.

Yes, but there’s an accelerating trend: An increasing number of Republicans feel like the party completely fouled things up by nominating Romney, McCain, Dole, and in some cases, the Bushes. On that list, only two of them won the popular vote out of six tries, winning three out of six.

And the Allen perspective ignores the fact that a couple of candidates with something akin to the Bush formula ran in the past few cycles and didn’t win the nomination:

Center Right Slot + Big Donors + Establishment Blessing = Rudy Giuliani, who spent $65 million and got no delegates in 2008.

Center Right Slot + Big Donors + Establishment Blessing = Mitt Romney, who spent $97 million in 2008 and didn’t win the nomination.

A core argument of that Center-Right-Big-Donor-Establishment-Blessed perspective is the claim that the candidate with those qualities is the “most electable.” There’s a lot more skepticism of that claim among the GOP rank-and-file now than there was in 2012 or 2008.

In other news, Lisa de Pasquale, CPAC director from 2006 to 2011, explains why Donald Trump was invited in 2011, and why she thinks having him continue is a terrific idea:

As the CPAC director from 2006-2011, I know more than anyone that CPAC wouldn’t be CPAC without controversy. Every year there was some speaker who should or shouldn’t be invited. This year people were once again maddened by the announcement that Donald Trump will be speaking at CPAC.

The most common criticism I hear about Trump is that he’s a “show boater” and is attending CPAC just for the media attention. Without mentioning any names, how is he different from the majority of stand alone speakers at most political conferences? Our movement is full of showboaters who flirt with running for office or who use CPAC to make a joke that offends a handful of people while getting wild applause from the audience. Let the left be the crybabies. I’ll take the political punks who embrace freedom, not a constant state of outrage.

My view on Trump remains unchanged: He’s the walking antithesis of presidential style, the diametric opposite of much of what the GOP claims to stand for, a guy doing the same “maybe I’ll run for president” schtick since 1988, and a breathing representation of our unhealthy cultural worship of celebrities.

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