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Jeb Bush Faces Political Hazards in Backing Charlie Baker

July 1, 2014 - 6:00pm
Jeb Bush drew fire from Debbie Wasserman Schultz for attending a fundraiser for Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker on Wednesday -- but thats not where the real peril comes from.

Wasserman Schultz went after Bush and Baker on global warming in the Huffington Post. This might hurt Baker in liberal Massachusetts but the damage to Bush could last longer.

Bush is thinking about following in his fathers and brothers footsteps and running for president in 2016. With a famous name, a solid record, a strong fundraising base and hailing from the leading swing state in presidential politics, Bush has some advantages if he runs.

But there are also major challenges facing Bush, including his brothers presidency and growing conservative discontent. Bush has been too outspoken against the tea party, clashing with them on Common Core and immigration. A critic of the Arizona immigration law, Bush has been the chief Republican championing Common Core.

Bush isnt helping his standing with conservatives by backing Baker. Granted, Massachusetts is more liberal than most of America, but Baker is clearly to the left of the Republican center. When he ran for governor against Deval Patrick in 2010, Baker twisted the tea partys tail. Hes doing the same thing this time out. Baker is a social liberal in the mold of his old ally William Weld, a supporter of same-sex marriage and he is pro-choice.

Still, there are several reasons for Bush to be active in Massachusetts even if Baker could hurt him with conservatives down the road. John Sununu might have saved George H.W. Bush there in 1988 but New Hampshire has been a thorn in the Bush familys side for years. Ronald Reagan won there back in 1980, ending the elder Bushs self-proclaimed big mo after winning Iowa. Pat Buchanan scared Bush in New Hampshire four years later. John McCain beat out George W. Bush there in 2000.

Massachusetts is the gateway to New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary. Television sets in the populated southern part of New Hampshire are turned to Massachusetts stations. Likewise, volunteers and activists from Massachusetts flood New Hampshire during the presidential primaries. Even though it will give conservatives more fodder, by helping Baker, Bush can boost his 2016 prospects in New Hampshire, a primary he needs to do well in.

Bush could also argue that Baker, while not perfect, is better than Martha Coakley and Steve Grossman, the Democrats looking to replace Patrick. But conservatives might not buy that after the likes of Mitt Romney and John McCain flopped. Regardless, unlike his brother against McCain, Bush might not be able to count on conservatives to get him to the nomination.

Tallahassee based political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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