Even with subpoenas flying and scandals mounting over Governor Chris Christie’s alleged role in the closure of lanes on the George Washington Bridge last fall, long-time Republican Party donors have not dismissed his 2016 presidential aspirations out-of-hand, noting that the embattled governor might shed the issue before the 2016 election cycle begins to heat up in earnest.
Those calculations are in the process of being recalibrated however, with murmurs emerging from the Jeb Bush camp, from the would-be candidate himself in a New York Times article, at a recent education conference in Oklahoma City that he is considering a run at the White House.
Christie Electoral Star Wanes
While Governor Christie has racked up an impressive number of contacts during his time at the helm of the Republican Governor’s Association, the Bush name carries a certain gravitas in Republican donor circles.
These relationships stretch back decades and include donations to the former Florida governor’s father back in the 1980s. Word that he is considering a possible run provides a bolt hole for Republican donors looking for a candidate without the mounting legal baggage that the governor is accruing.
One long time GOP strategist, Ford O’Connell noted in an interview to MSNBC.com that the New Jersey governor’s presidential hopes were on life support and, “Time is not on Christie’s side. As long as there’s a perception of wrongdoing, it’s going to be very hard for him to win the nomination.”
O’Connell continues, “The perception of the abuse of government power is troubling for a lot of Republicans. Christie was always going to have problems with grassroots conservatives, but this gave them one more arrow in their quiver.
Much of his selling point was ‘I can win a general election’, and Bridge-gate puts that in doubt.”
As such, a nervous Republican establishment is excited about a possible Jeb Bush candidacy.
Bush’s Electoral Star Waxes
Although he has been out of office for eight years, and he eschewed a run in 2012, Bush has recently been out on the lecture circuit, plugging for Republican candidates in advance of midterm elections, and meeting with affluent patrons as cultivates closer ties.
According to former George W. Bush fundraiser and former chair of the Republican Party in South Carolina, Barry Wynn, “They (donors) feel good about Jeb. They don’t have any questions about his integrity.”
Indeed, one Republican handler, who sat on the national finance committees of Mitt Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008, Brian Ballard, said in a Washington Post article, “He’s (Bush) the most desired candidate out there and everyone I know is excited.”
Another Republican operative noted in the same article that many of Mitt Romney’s major 2012 donors were already reaching out to the younger Bush, and the vast majority would financially back him in a competitive primary battle.
Loyalty to Bush Dynasty
Surprisingly, when talk of Jeb entering the electoral fray is brought up, long-time loyalty to the Bush family is most frequently cited reason for backing a Jeb run for the White House, rather than any concerns over Christie’s murky legal issues.
As the leading family of Republican politics, the family scion was guaranteed to garner a great deal of interest. His potential entry into electoral battle leaves Republican donors, who have cultivated ties with the Chris Christie camp over the years, with the decision of having to turn their back on the embattled New Jersey governor or take a pass on long standing ties with the Bush family.
“Those of us who have been dedicated to the Bush family for years would obviously have to take a Jeb candidacy into extremely serious consideration.” Said Fred S. Zeidman, top fundraiser for George W. Bush’s two successful presidential runs.