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Will Jeb Bush make a run?
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The presidential nomination race is frozen. The big money and the gritty organizers won't make 2016 election commitments until the putative front-runner makes a move, in or out of the campaign.
In the Democratic contest, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham is considered the pacesetter, if not the overwhelming favorite. For Republicans, the real contest won't take form until former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida decides whether to mount a campaign.
The slow emergence of Bush, the son and brother of presidents, is the major factor shaping the GOP race.
As possible candidates such as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky seek to establish their legitimacy, and while Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey struggles to recover from the scandal on the George Washington bridge, Bush is positioned as something of a white knight: a mainstream profile for a party struggling for identity, an experienced campaigner amid near-amateurs, a Catholic fluent in Spanish for a party increasingly reliant on the white Catholic vote (Mitt Romney won 59 percent in 2012) but dangerously unappealing for Latino voters (Romney took only 27 percent).
Here are the elements Bush and the Republican Party have to weigh for 2016:
-- The dynasty factor. There was a Bush or a Clinton on a national party ticket for the seven consecutive presidential elections between 1980 and 2004. If either Bush or Clinton wins a nomination in 2016, that would mean that one or both families would have been on a major-party ticket in 80 percent of the American presidential elections since "M.A.S.H" was one of the nation's leading TV shows and Pink Floyd was a top music group.
-- The kinder, gentler factor. That phrase was popularized by Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, but clearly Bush feels that impulse in his desire for a change in the tone of American politics. In his remarks last week at an event honoring the senior President Bush at Texas A&M University, Bush spoke of a "hopeful, optimistic message."
That sentiment differs little from what his brother, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, expressed in his 2000 race and from what Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois voiced in his 2008 race.
-- GOP issues. Bush is in some ways a throwback -- a comforting thought if you deplore the tone and timbre of the current Republican Party. He is a supporter of two issues that have drawn deep skepticism from some conservatives: the Common Core curriculum and an overhaul of immigration law.
-- Can he win? He will not have an easy time in the Republican primaries, but the size of the field may work to his advantage. If he runs in the general election against Clinton, he will portray her as a standard-bearer for a third Clinton term -- or, even less appealing, for a third Obama term. If Clinton or some other Democrat runs against him, she or he will portray Bush as a standard-bearer for a third term of his brother. The voters don't want either of those things. Just as important, the two legacy candidates don't either.
Shribman is editor of the Post-Gazette (