Three years before 2012, which Republican prospective candidate were the conventional wisdomists putting their money on? Can you remember? I can't. But I'm pretty sure they weren't thinking about the godawful group of hopefuls who turned up. Cain? Bachmann? The rest of the asylum?
So what about 2016? Is it clearly Marco Rubio, or will we be just as astonished at the next godawful group of hopefuls? What do we know about the ambitions of the Next Imperial Son -- Jeb Bush?
McKay Coppins' piece at Buzzfeed is too good to let pass. He covers Rubio v. Bush. Their maneuverings center on the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables where (Coppins discovered) Rubio used to come with high school friends to get drunk and where Jeb Bush currently has his office. Some excerpts:
More than one Republican operative in the state said a Rubio vs. Bush face-off could engulf the south Florida GOP in a civil war that would take years to fully recover from.
Both men know that, of course, and their many mutual friends expect them to negotiate an arrangement in some remote corner the Biltmore well before announcements are made. What's less clear is which man will end up standing at a podium two years from now announcing his candidacy, and which man will be standing in the background, clapping politely. ...... Late last December, the Tampa Bay Times polled a bipartisan group of the state's most "plugged-in political players," and, strikingly, most of them believed Bush would run and Rubio would sit 2016 out. What's more, an overwhelming majority — 82% — said Bush would be a stronger candidate.
"Rubio will make 2016 noises and preparations to increase his profile and lay the stage for himself in case Jeb doesn't run. But if Jeb does decide to run, he will step aside… Jeb Bush is heads and shoulders above Rubio, literally," one Republican wrote in the survey.
Similarly, a Democrat wrote of Rubio, "He's done the canned policy speeches at Heritage, done the roundtables at National Review. What is unclear is how he accumulates gravitas between now and 2014 when the GOP race will formalize. That is not a problem for Jeb."
Their predictions could be wrong of course, and any number of signs — including a report last week that Bush recently tried to buy the Miami Marlins — would seem to indicate that Rubio is taking this somewhat more seriously than Bush. But hometown perceptions matter in national politics, especially when you hope to raise enough money there to kick off a serious presidential campaign. ...... The prevailing complaint among Rubio's Republican critics here is that he has allowed an obsessive preoccupation with his public image to keep him from growing into the leader they want him to be.
One exasperated Republican recalled spending close to an hour listening to Rubio agonize over a National Journal article that criticized how his leadership PAC was spending its funds. The Republican tried to reason with the senator that "no one outside D.C. will care about this," but it was useless.
"He just lets these little things get to him, and he worries too much," the Republican said. "I'm just like, 'Marco, calm down.'"
Jeb Bush, on the other hand, has managed to adopt a certain cavalier, politics-be-damned attitude in the years since he left the governor's office that's endeared him to the insiders, vocally championing liberal immigration reform, lobbing bombs at his own party when he thinks they deserve it, and responding to media speculation about his presidential aspirations with a too-cool-for-school shrug.
"I think Jeb laid low on purpose when his brother was president because he understood that anything he said would ricochet back to his brother, or vice versa," said Navarro. "But in these last few years, we've had Jeb Bush unplugged, and it's so fun." ...McKay Coppins, Buzzfeed
Up against Hillary? Probably the most popular not-yet-candidate in our history? The candidate who already takes 20% of the Republican vote in red, red Texas, and 80% of just about every other voter (well, at least the ones to whom Republicans allow a vote)?
Anyway, I'm not sure either Rubio or Bush could win in Florida, given the anger following their party's widely-publicized efforts to block the vote.