Welcome to 2015, where the race to succeed President Barack Obama is already well underway and will only pick up speed as the year progresses. Washington will still provide plenty of political drama—and possibly even some economically significant legislation. (More on that later in the week.)
But much of the attention this year will shift to the presidential nominating contests, mainly but not exclusively on the Republican side. And as the new year dawns, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is clearly the front-runner for the Republican nomination. And if Bush winds up as the GOP choice, he would almost certainly face Hillary Clinton in the general election.
But a lot can happen between now and then, and Bush will face a massively crowded field on the Republican side. Still, he begins with large inherent advantages. Given his name identification and general popularity, Bush is already near or at the top of polls of primary voters in key states such as New Hampshire.
He trails somewhat in Iowa, home to many deeply conservative evangelical voters skeptical of his views on immigration and education. But Bush could easily overcome a middle-of-the-pack finish in Iowa with heavy spending in states where he is expected to fair better, including New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The Bush calculus would focus on emerging as the consensus establishment choice over New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and possibly governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio, among others.