Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse: Is Bush the GOP's only hope in 2016?

  Last week we discussed the presidential race. The GOP race for the nomination has been one of the most illuminating in history. Never before have political novices been the frontrunners. It is obvious that voters prefer an outsider with no governmental experience. Donald Trump and Ben Carson would both be considered outsiders, both lacking in political experience and skills and Trump lacking tact. No matter what they say or the amateurish blunders they make, they doggedly cling to their lead in the polls.

  Over the years I have been able to predict Alabama political races with some accuracy -  national and presidential politics, not so much. A prime example would be the presidential race eight years ago. In 2008, I looked at Fred Thompson and saw a presidential winner. He was tall with a deep gravelly voice. He had charisma and gravitas, not to mention a perfect resume and bio to be president.

  Thompson had risen to fame as a Watergate prosecutor, then moved on to become a well-known actor - a star in movies and the television show Law and Order. He served with distinction for eight years in the U.S. Senate from Tennessee. He was a proven political fundraiser. So I boldly declared and predicted that Fred Thompson would be the GOP nominee and probably the next president. Upon hearing of my column and glowing prediction, his wife even called from Nashville to thank me for the complimentary column. A week later, Thompson dropped out of the presidential race.

  There is an old adage that says once bitten, twice shy, and another that says fool me once,  shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Well a few months back I tried again and predicted that Jeb Bush would win the GOP nomination and go on to give Hillary Clinton a run for her money, but it currently looks as though Bush is fading nationwide.

  Regardless, I still believe that Jeb Bush is the best candidate Republicans could field to possibly beat Clinton. He has proven himself to be a successful governor of a battleground state. Florida is indeed the ultimate swing state. The Sunshine State is now America’s third most populous state. It is a microcosm of America, probably because most of America has moved there to retire.

  Jeb Bush has a Hispanic wife and he has a very proven following among the Hispanic population in Florida. It does not hurt that he speaks fluent Spanish. Due to the country’s dramatic demographic changes and the advantages inherent in the Electoral College for Democrats, a Democrat begins the race as the favorite. However, Bush could pull off the upset. Capturing the all-important Hispanic vote in a pivotal swing state is crucial.

  Jeb Bush was considered by most of the Bush family as the more promising of the two sons. He was considered the one to follow his father as president. He is also a prolific fundraiser. Raising campaign money is the key to victory in presidential politics or any politics for that matter. He is a tireless worker who has an impeccable reputation as a family man.

  Time Magazine was pretty much on the same page as me several months ago. They had a cover story on Bush and summed it up this way, “A two term governor of the ultimate swing state, Bush earned high marks for ushering in sweeping conservative reforms. He’s a Spanish-speaking policy wonk with a multi-cultural family that mirrors the nation’s metamorphosis and he may be the only Republican with the mix of money, moxie and political mastery to match Clinton.”

  However, the premier reason that Jeb Bush is the best candidate against Hillary for the GOP is that he is from Florida. A Republican must carry Florida. Polling reveals that Trump cannot carry Florida or Ohio for that matter against Hillary Clinton. Therefore, if the GOP nominates Trump, they are doomed.

  If Jeb Bush indeed falters and fails to win over GOP primary conservative voters nationwide, then who could beat Hillary? The answer is obvious. Young Florida Senator Marco Rubio is the only candidate left standing who could beat Hillary. He is Hispanic, very conservative, attractive, young, and articulate plus he hails from Florida. It is all about Florida. It will be interesting to watch.

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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