John Bolton Gets Busy in Florida as 2016 Beckons
Around the State
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a potential Republican presidential hopeful in 2016, waded into Florida politics this week, announcing that he was backing three incumbent Republicans currently serving in Congress -- U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- and throwing his support to Miami-Dade School Board member Carlos Curbelo who is running against U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla.
Bolton made his endorsements through a PAC and super-PAC which bear his name. So far, those PACs have raised $4.5 million and have more than $3 million in the bank.
As he offered his endorsements on Thursday, 2016 was clearly on Bolton’s mind.
“Going into 2016, the importance of succeeding in Florida can’t be understated,” said Bolton. “I’m committed to helping Florida Republicans win this November so that come 2016 we’re able to create the change America needs.”
Bolton praised the three Florida Republicans in Congress and pointed toward their record on foreign policy. Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen do not face any opponents in November while DeSantis is a heavy favorite over Democrat David Cox.
“As a former JAG officer and current Navy reserve, Ron is a leader and understands the importance of a strong U.S. national security policy,” Bolton said of DeSantis before turning his focus to Diaz-Balart. “Mario has been representing South Florida for over two decades. He understand the need for strong national security policy and is the right person to represent the 25th District.”
Bolton singled out Ros-Lehtinen -- the current chairwoman of the U.S. House Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee and the chairwoman emeritus of the full Foreign Affairs Committee -- for praise, pointing to her record during her decades in Congress.
“Ileana understands this is a changing and challenging world,” Bolton insisted. “As the former chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, she has become a leader on American foreign policy.”
Bolton also praised Curbelo, who faces a crowded Republican primary on Aug. 26.
“The son of Cuban immigrants, Carlos represents a new generation of Republican leadership that will bring new ideas and direction to Congress,” Bolton said.
The subject of presidential buzz back in 2012 before deciding not to run, Bolton has grown increasing active in recent weeks, backing GOP Senate hopefuls in key states, including Joni Ernst who is looking to flip an open seat in Iowa which holds the first caucus, and former U.S. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who is running against U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in New Hampshire, home of the first presidential primary.
Bolton, whom former President George W. Bush appointed as ambassador to the United Nations for 16 months -- despite never winning confirmation in the U.S. Senate -- has raised the possibility that he would be open to a presidential campaign to highlight foreign-policy issues. On most issues, Bolton, who identifies himself as influenced by the likes of former President Ronald Reagan and former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., is a reliable conservative but he does break left on some issues, including backing same-sex marriage.
While well-respected by Beltway Republicans, Bolton has never held elective office, though he did serve in the Justice and State departments under Reagan and George H.W. Bush, eventually rising to serve as assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs. He served as under-secretary for Arms Control and International Security in George W. Bush’s first term, before being named to the U.N. post.
Very few politicians have risen to the White House without winning elective office -- and most of those have been successful military leaders like Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight Eisenhower. William Howard Taft never won an election before winning the White House in 1908, having risen through the ranks of Ohio Republicans via appointed offices before ending up as governor general of the Philippines and secretary of war under Theodore Roosevelt. Taft could also end up as something of a role model for Bolton on another front: he was the last president to have a mustache. While he ran a dark-horse campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920, the first campaign Herbert Hoover ever won was in 1928 when he was elected president. Even presidents generally considered to have risen up the appointed ladder -- John Quincy Adams, James Buchanan, the first George Bush -- won congressional elections.
Bolton clearly intends to focus on international issues if he decides to run. A sharp critic of the U.N. and an early advocate for using military force to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Bolton’s strong views and undiplomatic statements have often caused friction from Democrats and even some of his fellow Republicans.
Still, there have been some Republican presidential candidates in recent years who impacted the races even without ever holding elective office. Bolton does not have the charisma or the passion of Pat Buchanan. Alan Keyes or Herman Cain. He does not have the millions that Steve Forbes brought to the table in 1996 and 2000. But Bolton is intelligent and an expert on policy -- two things that helped out his fellow Beltway-based conservative activist Gary Bauer when he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000. Bauer’s expertise on social issues and strong debate performances helped him to last longer in the presidential campaign than a number of better-known candidates -- including John Kasich, Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Dole, Lamar Alexander and Dan Quayle -- and highlight his conservative positions on social and economic issues.
Bolton is now a senior fellow with the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and if he runs and is able to raise enough money to survive into Iowa and New Hampshire, he will have the opportunity to pull most of the Republican candidates -- though probably not the likes of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. -- his way on international issues. While he has virtually no chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination, a Bolton 2016 presidential bid actually makes a lot of sense if he wants to ensure that the Republicans back a vigilant foreign policy. As his endorsements in Iowa, New Hampshire and now Florida show, a presidential bid is clearly on Bolton’s mind.
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