Jeb Bush and the ghost of W

Jeb Bush and the ghost of W

The model for Jeb Bush’s campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is obvious: his brother.

Sixteen years ago, George W. Bush joined an unusually cluttered and formless Republican field in a race considered more wide open than any the party had ever seen. Within months, though, Bush had imposed order on the process by raking in previously unimaginable sums of cash and racking up an all-star roster of endorsements. By the end of 1999, before a single primary or caucus vote had been cast, Bush had intimidated six separate rivals out of the race, with one poll putting him 48 points ahead of his nearest remaining rival.

This rapid trajectory — from untested legacy candidate to overpowering front-runner — is exactly what Jeb Bush and his team are aiming for now with their “shock-and-awe” strategy, a belief that a massive cash haul will produce a self-fulfilling narrative of inevitability.

The $100,000-per-head Park Avenue fundraiser that Bush’s PAC held last week illustrates this strategy in action, as is a Washington Post report that the former Florida governor is “far-eclipsing” his would-be opponents in the early chase for dollars. And with his declaration that he’s “willing to lose the primary to win the general election,” Jeb is making the same bet his brother did in his 2000 bid: That after eight years of being locked out, Republicans are willing to excuse an ideological apostasy or two in order to win back the White House.

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