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Can Jeb Bush's money buy love among the GOP base?

With his many millions in early fundraising dollars, Jeb Bush may quickly become just as prohibitive a favorite in the 2016 GOP presidential primary as Hillary Clinton is among the Democratic field, such as it is.

If he’s able to chase Marco Rubio — so recently National Review’s golden boy in a speculative future of a diverse new conservative coalition — out of the race with his outsized war chest, others will likely follow Rubio to the exits. That’s not a healthy thing for democracy or for the Republicans’ chances of winning back the White House, writes Peter Beinart in The Atlantic:

If you handed a Martian an iPad, told her to read 20 recent articles about the 2016 campaign, and then asked her how America chooses its presidents, she’d be more likely to mention money than votes.

This affliction is bipartisan. But in 2016, it may take a particular toll on the GOP. That’s because Jeb Bush’s extraordinary success raising money is catapulting him into the role of Republican frontrunner. And given the GOP’s tendency to nominate frontrunners, that means Republicans may well choose one of the weakest candidates in their primary field.

Jeb’s weaknesses are hiding in plain sight. They’ve just been obscured by his dazzling success in raising cash.

An introverted lack of natural joie de politique, unorthodox policy positions not optimal for turning out the conservative base and two Bush White Houses full of inherited baggage all bode poorly for Jeb winning it all, Beinart says. But those issues may not receive a thoroughgoing hearing when campaign cash speaks with the loudest voice in the room during Super PAC-era presidential primaries:

All this would be more obvious if the money chase did not dominate campaign coverage. If Bush’s well-known last name did not provide him with such epic fundraising capacity, in fact, he’d be George Pataki: a dull, moderately conservative former governor of a large state who has been out of politics for a while.

In winning the money primary, Bush is crowding out potential candidates with greater appeal to actual voters. Consider Marco Rubio. He’s a more natural politician. Despite an immigration stance similar to Bush’s, he has a stronger connection to the GOP’s conservative base. And given his youth and lack of connections to previous Republican administrations, he would naturally embody change. Yet as a fellow Floridian, Rubio is the candidate Jeb hurts the most.

Written By

Ryan Ray covers politics and public policy in North Florida and across the state. He has also worked as a legislative researcher and political campaign staffer. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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