Politics

Can Jeb Bush Defy the Tea Party and Win?

In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens before speaking at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington. Bush on Tuesday took his most definitive step yet toward running for president, announcing plans to “actively explore” a campaign and form a new political operation allowing him to raise money for like-minded Republicans. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
In this Nov. 20, 2014 file photo, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush listens before speaking at the National Summit on Education Reform in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

(New York Times) – Can Jeb Bush win the Republican presidential nomination while defying the most ideologically committed wing of his party?

Bill Clinton did this successfully in 1992, when he staked out conservative stands opposed by the liberal wing of his party — the so-called Sister Souljah strategy, designed to distance himself from the dogma of the left generally and from Jesse Jackson specifically.

Over the past 23 years, however, the voting public has become more politically consistent, with the Democratic left and Republican right each exerting greater influence on their respective parties, particularly in primary elections.

In 1994, as Figure 1 shows, median Republican and Democratic voters were relatively close to each other, near the center on an ideological scale. According to Pew, 30 percent of Democrats were liberals and 45 percent of Republicans were conservatives. Fifty-three percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans at that time fell in the middle range. This provided a base of support for candidates of both parties to run campaigns accommodating centrist voters.

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