Last Thursday, politicians reported their second-quarter fundraising totals. Along with providing a glimpse of who looks strongest and weakest heading into the midterm elections, the occasion functioned as a test of strength in the race to decide who will challenge President Obama in 2012. Republican hopefuls raised money for their political action committees to donate to state and local candidates who might support their national ambitions. Mitt Romney blew away the field by raising $3.5 million, a sum, the Boston Globe noted, ''that dwarfs that of other possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates and establishes the former Massachusetts governor as a potent political force.''
Romney may have bested Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and the rest of the field. But another potent political force -- one who raised no money and has no PAC -- could still win the nomination were he inclined to pursue it: Jeb Bush is the candidate hiding in plain sight. The brother and son of presidents stepped back from elected politics after his second term as Florida governor ended three year ago. At 57, he's in his prime.
The knock on Jeb Bush begins and ends with his name. ''If he weren't a Bush, he'd be an obvious top choice,'' said conservative activist Grover Norquist. Widely presumed by the political cognoscenti to one day follow his father and win the White House, Jeb instead watched as his brother did so first, and then saw his own prospects laid to rest when George W. Bush became one of the least popular presidents in American history.