John Ellis Bush - better known as Jeb Bush - has announced he is "actively exploring the possibility of running for President of the United States" in the election of 2016.
Aaannnddd, They're Off!
"Actively exploring the possibility" is legal-speak for "I'm gonna do this, but the paperwork isn't quite ready and we haven't finished lining up the funding for an exploratory committee."
So, why say something that provocative? Glad you asked. Gives me the opportunity to do what I love most: Quoting myself.
On AlJazeera.com, I said:
"So long as Jeb looks like he might get into the race it will be difficult for potential opponents to recruit big-time fundraisers (called 'bundlers')."
Other potential candidates are courting bundlers as well. Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and a host of other Senators and Governors are on the phones, talking friends and friends of friends to see whether they can generate some enthusiasm among the political moneyed class.
Bundlers are important because they are typically wealthy and have in their Rolodexes the names of other wealthy people with whom they've previously traded donations. "If you'll do X thousand to the museum that I want, I'll do Y thousand for the opera that your wife wants" is not an unknown formulation.
Those same types of agreements are made for political donations: "You max out to the RNC/DNC of which I'm deputy finance chair, and I'll max out to the RGA/DGA that you're chairing," has also been known to occur.
There is nothing illegal or unethical about these kinds of deals. The point is: These are the people who can generate the kind of money necessary to get a big time campaign off the ground. And the best thing that can happen is they agree to raise money for you. The second best outcome is you keep them from raising money for your opponent.
"[Jeb] wants to keep the political talent frozen in place. By making noises as if he is leaning toward running, a great number of very talented people will wait to see what he does."
In Presidential politics as in professional football there are more skill positions than there are players qualified to fill them.
Anyone can do reasonably well in Iowa if he or she spends six or seven months visiting coffee shops and pig farms from Red Oak to Dubuque. They can do well spending time in New Hampshire or South Carolina.
These are relatively small states in either population, geography, or both. And, they follow one another like ducks across the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis.
A car, a couple of staffers to make phone calls to potential supporters and handle what press there is, and you're in business.
Things get a little tougher when the states get more populous, the media markets more expensive, and the primaries come tumbling one after another. More difficult (and more expensive) still when two, three, five or more states have elections on the same day.
As Ralph Z. Hallow wrote last summer in the Washington Times:
"[T]he two biggest Republican states, Texas and Florida, are contemplating a March 1 Mega Tuesday?"
It is not hard to see that Marco Rubio vs Jeb Bush in Florida and Ted Cruz vs Rick Perry in Texas might require the services of hundreds of staff. Each. Then there are the other big prizes: Georgia, Ohio, California, and on and on.
If I were still of an age where a major campaign might be important to me (I am not and it is not), I might well reach out to Jeb's people to let them know I would be interested in running the campaign in Virginia.
The way the game is played, whomever I spoke to would probably say something like:
"That's amazing, Rich. Your name just came up the other day and someone said we might fold you into the campaign in either Virginia or Pennsylvania. Don't do anything until you hear back from me."
What's the name of that Disney movie again? Oh, yes. "Frozen." Which is exactly what I'd be, waiting by the phone for a call.
Like fundraisers, the first choice is the get the best people to work on your campaign. The second choice is to freeze them in place so they don't sign on with your strongest opponent.
Jeb Bush may not run and if he does, he might not be be the nominee.
But, his gravitational pull on the political process - just as Hillary Clinton's on the other side - cannot be ignored.