Reputation Audit: Jeb Bush

Reputation Audit: Jeb Bush
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Jeb Bush might be a top pick for the GOP establishment, but he doesn't enthuse the Republican base - and the Bush name could be a liability

There are lots of potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders.  But one of them, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, has extra hurdles to overcome even with members of his own party.  According to the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, Bush may not be conservative enough, and many Americans may think that three Bushes are too many: only 15% overall and just one in four Republicans think Bush should run for president.

This lack of enthusiasm by Republicans isn’t limited to GOP concerns about the former Florida Governor: Republicans aren’t sure any of three prominent members of their party should run. Only one of the three candidates asked about in recent Economist/YouGov Polls gets more Republicans supporting a run than opposing it.  But, even in that case, just 36% of Republicans believe Kentucky Senator Ran Paul should run in 2016.  (In contrast, 69% of Democrats interviewed in February said they wanted Hillary Clinton to run for President).

Bush’s problems with Republicans may be similar to those faced by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.  A large minority of Republicans dislike both men.  25% of Republicans view Bush unfavorably, as do nearly four in ten Americans overall. 

Christie is disliked by even more Republicans (37% in this week’s poll).  By contrast, only 15% of Republicans see Rand Paul negatively.

Most Republicans, many of whom call themselves conservatives, don’t see Bush – or Christie – that way.   Only 40% of Republicans call Bush a conservative; 38% said that about Christie.  Nearly as many Republicans call Bush a moderate or liberal as say he is conservative. 

And Bush’s ideology – or lack of it – forms part of his overall image.  “Moderate” is one of the positive words people use to describe Bush; but it is also one of the words used by those who have an unfavorable view of the former Governor.  So is the acronym “RINO,” Republican in name only. “Conservative” appears hardly at all among those with positive views of Bush, but it is there among those who dislike him.  

Bush’s honesty cuts both ways.  “Honest” is the personal characteristic most-mentioned by those who like the Governor; but “dishonest” and “untrustworthy” appear in the word cloud for those who view him unfavorably.  When the public is asked directly whether Bush is more or less honest than most people in public life, 15% say he is more honest, while 21% think he is less honest.  More think he adjusts his statements to tell people what he thinks they want to hear rather than speaks his mind; Republicans give him positive marks when it comes to political honesty, though 22% of Republicans disagree.

But there is one other link the public makes when it comes to Jeb Bush, and that is his family.  And that mention is almost always negative.  “Bush” is the biggest single word in the word cloud for those with an unfavorable view of the former Governor, and “dynasty” also appears.  “Bush” and “brother” are mentioned less often in the word cloud for those with a favorable view.  Those with a positive view of Jeb Bush cite many other personal characteristics. 

So when Americans judge the potential candidacy of Jeb Bush, there is a lot of political baggage that they also assess, especially the Presidencies of his brother and his father.  Among the public overall, 54% say that Governor Bush cares little or not at all about the needs and problems of average Americans, and by 35% to 26%, the public is uneasy about Bush’s ability to deal with an international crisis.  And despite his family’s presidential history, just 30% say Jeb Bush has the qualifications to be President.

Among Republicans, less than half agree he has the qualifications; 22% say he does not. 

Republicans make similar judgments about other potential 2016 candidates:  similar percentages have express doubts about the qualifications of Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

Image: Getty

Full results can be found here.

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.

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