With a little more than two weeks to go before Republicans begin voting in presidential caucuses and primaries, the GOP faces the possibility of a muddled result in Iowa; a primary race that may take months of bitter campaigning to resolve; and a large number of Republican voters who remain unhappy with the current presidential field. Some of those voters are still hoping another candidate might enter the race.
That is why a new article from former Florida governor Jeb Bush is likely to attract attention from voters and political analysts alike. In the Wall Street Journal, Bush has written an article, "Capitalism and the Right to Rise," that could be read as a simple statement of economic beliefs -- or a campaign manifesto.
Bush begins the piece with a nice word for House Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan. After that, the article is a standard Republican call for an end to excessive and intrusive government regulation. "We have to make it easier for people to do the things that allow them to rise," Bush writes. "We have to let them compete. We need to let people fight for business. We need to let people take risks. We need to let people fail. We need to let people suffer the consequences of bad decisions. And we need to let people enjoy the fruits of good decisions, even good luck. That is what economic freedom looks like."
Perhaps Bush just wanted to say something. Or perhaps he wanted to join the presidential conversation, either as an influential voice or a possible candidate. If his motivation is the latter, it would be a change from months -- years -- of denying that he would run for president in 2012. Both Bush and members of his family have said repeatedly that he will not run, that after spending his peak earning years as governor of Florida, he needed to make money for his family. Were he to decide to take run, Bush would have to reconcile his action with his many, many denials.
Of course, he wouldn't have to persuade those Republicans who would still like to see another candidate enter the race. Polls have shown that a significant number of GOP voters, perhaps a third, are not satisfied with the current field. And some commentators, most notably Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, have suggested that the race might end up in a deadlocked convention, or with the entrance of a new candidate after early caucuses and primaries.
"It's quite possible no one will emerge from the January primaries with a commanding lead in the delegate count, or a compelling surge in popular support," Kristol wrote recently. "Four or more of the existing candidates could then continue to split votes -- and delegates -- through February and March. It would be even more likely to happen if someone new were to respond to a draft and enter the race belatedly, announcing his entry as early as mid-January or as late as early March -- missing some primaries, to be sure, but getting on lots of ballots and getting lots of votes in April, May, and June."
To many Republicans, that seems a highly unlikely scenario. But it's possible, and Jeb Bush's new article is likely to become part of the discussion.