Jeb Bush Seeks To Define Himself For 2016 As Kinder And Gentler Candidate

Dean Chambers

Jeb Bush wants to define who and what he is as a candidate for president before the Democrats define him. He saw the mistake made by Mitt Romney and doesn't want to repeat it, as CNN Politics has reported, that Romney advisers "admitted one of their biggest mistakes was failing to define him before the Democrats did."

Mitt Romney allowed the Democrats to define him for months, in large part with the negative campaign spots run by Super PACs such as Priorities USA, before he fought back and sought to define himself in the first debate between himself and Barack Obama.

The effectiveness of this defining of Mitt Romney showed in the exit polling data on the 2012 election, particularly in one question that was asked of voters. When voters were asked which candidate "Cares about people like me," an astounding 81 percent answered, Barack Obama. Only 18 percent answered that question with Mitt Romney. Given how the Democrats, via their campaign supporting Super PAC, defined Romney as mean-spirited, cruel, heartless, and out of touch, and he largely failed in any effort to define himself, it is not by coincidence that he polled so extremely low in that question.

Jeb Bush has learned that lesson, it seems, and wishes to not repeat the mistake that Mitt Romney made in 2012 of allowing himself to be so heavily defined, as well as so negatively, by the opposition party and its campaign.

"Mitt Romney was a successful, loving, caring, generous man – and he never showed it," CNN Politics reported Jeb Bush as saying in Salem, New Hampshire. "The simple fact is: You're going to get attacked. You have to show who you are first."

Jeb Bush has certainly sought to clearly define who he is, he's gone so far as to call himself a "Hispanic" while noting his marriage to a Hispanic woman and living in a heavily Hispanic area in South Florida. Jeb Bush, much like his father and brother who both served as president, has sought to cast himself as the "kinder and gentler" Republican candidate for president, to use the words his father, George H.W. Bush, used in his first inaugural address as president in 1989.

Byron York, writing for the conservative news publication Human Events, has also noted that Jeb Bush is positioning himself as the "kinder and gentler" candidate for president in 2016.

"When Bushes run for president, they portray themselves as more caring, more gentle and more compassionate than their sometimes heartless and harshly ideological fellow Republicans," York wrote in Human Events, "It worked for George H.W. Bush in 1988, it worked for George W. Bush in 2000, and now Jeb Bush is preparing to give it another go in 2016."

Not only is Jeb Bush seeking to clearly define himself both apart from the other GOP candidates for president in 2016, and as someone who is not Mitt Romney, he also must surely believe defining himself as he is, will win him the election in 2016 to the White House.

He has good reason to believe it, as Byron York writes in Human Events, in addressing conservative critics who may see Jeb as insufficiently conservative to the GOP nominee, "But Jeb's critics will have to confront this question: Can they name any Republicans not named Bush who have been elected president in the last 30 years? The fact is, the Bushes are the only Republicans who have cracked the code for winning the White House in more than a generation."

By going so strongly in the direction that his brother, George W. Bush, referred to in the label of himself as a "compassionate conservative," Jeb Bush has perhaps created the impression that he might be too "liberal" to be the Republican nominee for president.

Political pundit and elections predictor Nate Silver of raised just this very issue, the Inquisitr reported in December of last year. His stances in favor of immigration reform, common core education standards, and his appeal to Hispanics have given some the impression is he among the more moderate of GOP candidates running in 2016.

While conservatives may say Jeb Bush is the most moderate of 2016 Republican candidates, even calling him liberal, progressives point out his strong conservative stances on social issues, including his strong Pro-Life stance on abortion, and his record as governor of Florida to make the case that he was the kind of "severely conservative Republican governor" that Mitt Romney claimed to be in 2012.

The Democrats even have a plan to define Jeb Bush as being much like Mitt Romney, tied to the top one percent on Wall Street, an advocate of the wealthy and big business, and out of touch with the average person.

How will Jeb Bush be viewed in 2016 by the voters as a candidate? It will come down to who is more effective in getting the message out that defines him, either his own campaign or the opposition. Both sides will have more than enough money to get their side of the story to the voters. If Jeb Bush is seen as another Mitt Romney, the next president will be the Democratic nominee. If Jeb Bush is seen as the "compassionate conservative" in 2016, and he is successful in defining himself to the voters, he will expect to be the next president. But if enough conservative voters see Bush as too moderate, we might yet still have a Democrat replace Barack Obama in the White House. The "kinder and gentler" candidate might not translate into a Bush presidency on the third try of that strategy.

[Photo of Jeb Bush by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images.]