Monday, March 26, 2007

Bolton: "Jeb Bush may be putting together the backup team"

The cold engine of politics at the Presidential level entails preparing for all eventualities, especially with regards to something as "final" to Bush 42 narrative as his legacy. The moment that Senator John McCain decided to fight the Second Iraq War after the Bush manner, reasoning historically that a withdrawal would be not unlike our ignominious pullout of Vietnam (of which he has a great existential involvement), he became George Bush's man for 2008. The tacit agreement was that McCain would continue Bush's War, securing his legacy and McCain would be the Establishment candidate, a position alien to the formerly maverick McCain. McCain is even allowed the wiggle-room to criticize Rummy; he is not, however, allowed the "wiggle room" to lose the Primary. That would be verboten.

But McCain-as-Establishment-candidate was not to be the final chapter. It never is. Florida watchers have noticed that behind the scenes the "Jebbys" -- who, incidentally, is a dark horse for Veep -- are subtly making plays for Mitt Romney. What's going on? From the intense, brilliant political reporter Alexander Bolton from TheHill:

"George’s and Jeb’s followers are lining up against each other in the 2008 presidential election.

"Many prominent GOP operatives close to President Bush have joined Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) while a majority of those close to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) are lining up behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

"It is clear that the Bush family is hedging its 2008 bets, said one political scientist. Or the divergence could signal a schism between the two brothers’ politics. Or, as one fundraiser close to the Bush family argued, it may just be happenstance.

"McCain’s campaign has signed the lion’s share of the best known lieutenants of the president’s election campaigns. Terry Nelson, Mark McKinnon, and Steve Schmidt, who worked on Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, now serve McCain. Nelson served as Bush’s political director, McKinnon and Schmidt handled media strategy. Matt David, who handled rapid response, also works for McCain.

"Brian Jones and Danny Diaz worked for the president as media specialists for the Republican National Committee (RNC). They are also on McCain’s team.

"While Romney has recruited veteran talent from DC’s Republican circles, he has drawn fewer high-profile operatives who worked for the president. Romney has hired two well-known Bush-2004 operatives: Matt Rhoades, who served as research director, and Kevin Madden, who worked with the press.

"Ben Ginsberg, Bush-2004’s legal counsel, and Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder who funded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and helped sink Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) 2004 challenge, also support Romney.

"Fifty-five of the president’s biggest fundraisers — those who have reached 'Ranger' and 'Pioneer' rank — are backing McCain. (Rangers raise $200,000 or more while pioneers raise half that.) Thirty-one major Bush fundraisers are in Romney’s camp.

"But the trend of Bush allies lopsidedly favoring McCain over Romney flips in Florida, where Jeb Bush has governed for most of the past decade.

“'Jeb Bush may be putting together the backup team,' said Ross K. Baker, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. 'Should McCain falter and prove not very appetizing, they’ve designated his successor.'"

The full, interesting article (every article by Alexander Bolton is noteworthy) here.

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