Donald Trump is going to tell us something today. I expect an Exploratory Campaign and not a full announcement of a Presidential campaign. I could be wrong. And if Trump does announce, I’m not sure what role he fills in an already crowded field of experienced red meat throwers. My sense, and I’m sure he would disagree, is that Trump is more interested in going on offense against some of the other Republicans than he is actually looking to a general election fight against a Democrat.
I have to be honest, though. I have a bit of a soft spot for Donald Trump. In 2012, the other Republicans practically peed themselves in fear over Trump forcing Obama to cough up his birth certificate. As someone who banned birthers from this website, it was still brilliant theater. He just didn’t give a crap that everyone hated him for it and his tenacity forced a most awkward White House response because Donald Trump, whether you like him or not, knows how to play to the press. I only wish he’d do Obama’s college transcripts this time because … well … awesome.
Yesterday, in Florida, Jeb Bush announced. It was a solid announcement with a broad indictment of President Obama’s tenure in office. He subtly tried to drag not just Hillary Clinton into the indictment, but Senators Cruz, Paul, and Rubio too.
“We are not going to clean up the mess in Washington by electing the people who either helped create it or have proven incapable of fixing it,” Bush said.
He hit a lot of notes that evangelicals will like. He went after Hillary Clinton and Obama for their assault on the Little Sisters of the Poor and targeted Obama over his lecturing about the crusades.
Noting how many people are in the race, Bush declared, “It’s nobody’s turn. It’s everybody’s test, and it’s wide open.”
That, though, raises a question for Bush. While indicting Washington and the Obama-Clinton team, he repeatedly made the case that a governor is the type of person we need. He pointed to his record in Florida.
Bush, though, last held office in 2007, leaving, along with Mike Huckabee, a governor’s mansion that January. He had impressive economic results in Florida, but they were really before the bubble burst.
Contrast that with Rick Perry who continued to create jobs during the economic downturn, or Bobby Jindal who transformed Louisiana economically through the worst of the recession, or more recently Scott Walker who led a privatization effort and anti-union effort that has begun to attract business to the state.
Bush is going to have to show why he, not they, is the best man for the job. Hindered by his last name, that might be a bigger burden than he thinks. And that does not even consider Cruz, Paul, and Rubio — all three of whom might have gone to Washington, but have not become part of Washington.
Regardless of the problems, though, Jeb Bush gave a solid speech. He gave a defense of limited government, a defense of school choice, and a defense of religious liberty. He gave a stinging and damning indictment of the past seven years without just throwing Obama bashing red meat to the crowd. And he did one key thing he needs to do going forward — focus on what was a very conservative record as Florida’s Governor while ignoring his more recent statements that give conservatives justified heartburn.
I don’t know that it was enough and I am sure that it will not persuade his critics in the Republican Party. But his debut as an official Presidential candidate was a solid one.