Jeb vs. Marco Match-up in 2016 Unlikely

Two of the key figures in the Republican Party happen to live in the same city, in the same state, share many supporters and donors and enjoy a close, personal friendship where one has been a mentor to the other. So they both can’t run for president against each other, right?

One of the most interesting subplots in the open race for president in 2016, which will begin in about 18 months after the midterm elections, is whether former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) or Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) choose to run for president.

Both have strong cases to make.

Bush was a hugely successful and innovative two-term governor of Florida, who cut taxes every year and reformed education and healthcare, winning the state by a comfortable margin.

For someone who hasn’t run for office since 2002, he commands respect and national media attention, and is widely recognized as a national expert on education and immigration issues. His nationwide donor base is significant.

He just turned 60 years old, so after passing on running in 2012, the open race in 2016 could be his last real chance, as he would potentially be 70 years old before his next opportunity to run. His last name was a political burden in 2012, just four years removed from the controversial two-term presidency of his younger brother, but concerns over a Bush dynasty might recede if Hillary Clinton runs on the other side.

Marco Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 and is consistently regarded as a rising star in the Republican Party, while maintaining his Tea Party appeal.

Rubio’s stature was confirmed when he was chosen by the Romney campaign to give a prime-time address at the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., and party leaders asked him to give the State of the Union response last month.

Rubio is currently leading a bipartisan group to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, requiring Rubio to walk a fine line between primary and general election politics. He is the most skilled communicator of his generation, and his Cuban heritage would be a major asset in 2016. Rubio could conceivably pass on running for president in 2016, instead seeking reelection while he waits for a future national opportunity.

Both candidates have much to consider. Running for president requires a willingness to make a minimum 10-year commitment, with a two-year manic pace on the campaign trail and the possibility of eight years in office. Family members must be on board and vulnerabilities must be considered.

So who runs, and how do they decide?

Bush has been a mentor to Rubio, who served in the state Legislature and rose to be Speaker of the House there. Does the mentor earn the right of first refusal?

It is unlikely that both Bush and Rubio could and would run in 2016. Many of their strongest supporters overlap, and key Florida donors would be forced into an impossible position to choose one friend over the other.

Perhaps most importantly, they would presumably not want to run against each other as they see the world the same way, deeply respect each other, and to some extent, share a policy record from their time in service to Florida.

Both potential candidates are sending signals showing interest in running. Bush co-authored a just-released book on immigration and has sought national media coverage. He continues to work on education reform across the country and appears to be engaging in politics more actively than he has in the past few years.

Rubio has bulked up his Senate staff, and his campaign organization is filled with top consultants and operatives to handle the overwhelming volume of scheduling requests he receives.

Will the candidates meet privately and talk it through?

Does Bush finally decide to run, casting aside family doubt and his desire to secure his financial future? Does Rubio, like then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) before him, decide that extended Senate service is a political liability and national office is the next logical step?

Watching the interplay between these two friends and national leaders will be one of the most interesting subplots of the 2016 campaign.

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