Tone-deaf: Top Republicans trying to draft Jeb Bush for 2016

Tone-deaf: Top Republicans trying to draft Jeb Bush for 2016

LAS VEGAS — Many of the Republican Party’s most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy.

Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House. …

Many if not most of Mitt Romney’s major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, e-mails and invitations to meet, according to interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the “vast majority” of Romney’s top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.

“He’s the most desired candidate out there,” said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. “Everybody that I know is excited about it.” …

He would enter a wide-open contest for the GOP nomination with other advantages, as well: deep ties to his party’s establishment and evangelical wings, and a reputation as a reform-minded policy wonk. Fluent in Spanish, Bush has credibility within the Hispanic community that could help broaden his coalition. He also has the gravitas many Republicans say is required to compete with former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrats’ leading potential contender.

“Jeb has the capacity to bring the party together,” said Fred Malek, a top Republican official who said he has been in regular contact with Bush.

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