Jeb Bush had a very bad few days last week. They won’t be the last bad days of this campaign. The Iraq question hasn’t been settled and won’t go away. And other questions as awkward and difficult are waiting to be asked.
Bush’s ability to raise large amounts of money has distracted attention from the inherent fragility of his campaign. But there are many reasons to be skeptical of his ability to secure the Republican nomination, much less win the White House, and the early months of his undeclared campaign have done little to dispel those doubts. Here are six:
George W. Bush’s popularity has recovered somewhat since he left office. (Thirteen years ago, when he was president, I wrote speeches for him. Now, I write for a magazine.) At the end of 2014, more Americans had a positive than a negative image of him for the first time since 2005. But then, the same is true for Jimmy Carter—rather more so actually. Once an unpopular president has departed office, the defeats and disappointments of his tenure vanish into American amnesia. But that amnesia is highly conditional on the ex-president and his namesakes staying away from politics.
Bobby Kennedy could credibly seek the presidency in 1968 because so many Americans loved his martyred brother. Franklin Roosevelt shared a name with a hugely popular cousin. Even defeated one-term presidents can boost a relative if they remain popular within their party: Robert Alfonso Taft could plausibly aspire to follow the lead of his father, William Howard Taft; George W. Bush did follow George H.W. Bush. But none of Herbert Hoover’s relatives have run for high office. Subsequent James Earl Carters have likewise pursued other endeavors. There have been no more new Nixons—and Nixon resigned from office only 1 point less popular than George W. Bush in October, 2008.