How would George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan have fared in the 2012 presidential election? Poorly, according to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said Monday that both his father and the Gipper would have failed to secure the nomination this year. Their records of "finding accommodation" and "some degree of common ground" with Democrats would have hurt them in today's sharply polarized landscape. Jeb's comments were meant as an attack on Obama's first term, which the Floridian blasted as overly partisan, but his words are also being examined for what they say about today's Republican Party. Is Jeb right — would Reagan and Bush Sr. have failed to win the 2012 nomination?
They're too moderate for today's GOP: Reagan wouldn't be able to get through a a Republican primary "without being laughed off the stage today," says Steve Benen at MSNBC. In the 1980s, he raised the debt ceiling 18 times and raised taxes seven of the eight years he was in office. That would never fly with today's GOP. Republicans "have a religious-like reverence for Reagan," but they no longer have any love "for his approach to governance." Indeed, the GOP has moved "so far to the ideological extreme that it's no longer the Party of Reagan."
"Jeb Bush: Reagan would have struggled with today's GOP"
Huh? Reagan is far less moderate than Romney: This is a "laughable" notion, says Paul Mirengoff at Power Line. Mitt Romney's "offenses against the conservative orthodoxy outweigh any Reagan had committed" when he was nominated in 1980, yet today's GOP is okay with the former Massachusetts governor. Heck, Mitt's opponents even call him a "Massachusetts moderate." But Reagan was no moderate. Not only would he survive with today's GOP — he would thrive.
"One less thing to worry about"
Once again, Jeb is harming his party: The popular Floridian may have framed this as an attack on Obama, but you can bet it will be remembered as criticism of his own party, says Christian Heinze at The Hill. When Bill Clinton and Cory Booker recently broke with Obama, for example, it made more headlines than when those Democrats attacked Romney. "Intraparty bickering is always more meaningful than interparty sniping" — after all, "it's pretty newsworthy when a major figure in a party rips the core of his own party."
"Jeb Bush: No room for Reagan in today's GOP"
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- Opinion Brief: Should Jeb Bush have run in 2012?
- Forecast: Wisconsin's Scott Walker: 2016 presidential frontrunner?