A longtime friend of the Bush family, and an icon in New Hampshire Republican politics, former Sen. Judd Gregg said on Wednesday that Jeb Bush moves toward a presidential candidacy as a “substantive favorite” for his party’s nomination, but not the “prohibitive favorite.”
Gregg, the former two-term governor, three-term U.S. House member and three-term senator, said in an interview that he likes the GOP field overall – at least most of it.
He thinks highly of Bush, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan – and even Rand Paul – among others.
Ted Cruz? Not so much. He called the Texas senator “foolish” for stopping the adjournment of the Senate for the weekend and trying to force through a budget amendment that would have reversed President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.
“We are going to have an extremely strong field this time around,” Gregg said, “as opposed to last time, when we had only one candidate qualified to be President and the others were writing their next book.
“This is a deep and talented field,” he said. “There is a first tier and a second tier and undoubtedly, Governor Bush is in the top tier.
“I would not call him a prohibitive favorite, but I would call him a substantive favorite,” Gregg said, also naming Mitt Romney, should he decide to run, and New Jersey Gov. Christie in that category. But he said, “It’s going to be a wide open field.” Gregg said he did not hear from Bush prior to his announcement on Tuesday that he “actively explore” running for President.
“I do tend to think that the next nominee will come from a governorship rather than Congress,” Gregg said, “because Congress has been somewhat dysfunctional and I believe the American people are tired of the dysfunction.”
However, he said, “people like (Rep.) Paul Ryan and (Sen.) Marco Rubio are huge talents.”
Gregg said that Bush is being incorrectly labeled a moderate-to-liberal Republican.
“He isn’t a moderate,” he said. “He is very conservative. On fiscal matters, he was a conservative governor of Florida and a very successful one, who balanced budgets and fixed the education system. There are those in our party who are one-issue, ideologically driven people, whether it’s on immigration or other issues, but Governor Bush’s positons are very much positions that are in the mainstream of the vast majority of the American people.”
Gregg said he expects Bush to campaign often in New Hampshire should he make the expected decision to become a candidate.
“You can’t win in New Hampshire unless you are willing to go out to the people and be very hands on,” Gregg said. “I believe he would be very comfortable running that type of a campaign.
Would Bush’s entry prompt others, such as Christie, not to run?
“My view is that if you want to be President, don’t worry about who else is running. You go out and you make the case. If you want to be President and if you have the fire to want to be President, you make your case regardless of who else is running.
“I don’t know Chris Christie,” Gregg said, “but I assume that will be his view.”
Gregg said that he does not know Jeb Bush “very well,” but is “close to his brother, who is a good friend and obviously I am close to his parents, as my father was.”
Gregg said that with Republicans now moving into the majority of the Senate, as well as the House, “They have to show that they can govern. It doesn’t help to shout and seek retribution.
“They have to come out of the box in the first two or three weeks of the session passing three or four bills that make sense and are needed.”
He said passage of the Keystone pipeline “will be number one.” He said he expects the Medical Device Tax to be repealed and that Congress will address the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act.
“These are things that can be done in a bipartisan way if they want to be constructive and don’t follow the foolish approach of Ted Cruz to seek retribution as a way to raise money.”
Cruz, Gregg said, “did fundamental damage to the party” last week when he prompted the Senate to return to session, which allowed outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring forward and pass a series of Obama administration nominees.
On the other hand, Gregg said, he likes Sen. Rand Paul’s “approach.”
“He is coming to the state of New Hampshire regularly and we appreciate people who come to New Hampshire regularly,” he said. “And he has taken a Jack Kemp approach on race and on inner city outreach,” referring to the late Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and New York Congressman who ran for President in 1988.
“But (Paul’s) monetary policy and foreign policy are hard to understand and is pretty far out there. We can’t be an isolationist country in the 21st century.”
Gregg cited “a number of governors” who impress him as possible presidential material, naming – in addition to Bush — John Kasich of Ohio, who is a former chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Mike Pence of Indiana, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
Gregg: ‘Far-left’ Democrats
Gregg said the rise of interest in Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “reflects how far left the Democratic Party has now gone. The center of the Democratic Party is led by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who is an avowed socialist. The party has lurched far to the left.
“The only reason you don’t see it is that you have a President who gives them cover. Were it not for the President it would be a return to the party of McGovern. I don’t think it’s viable when exposed to the American people.”
He added, “And now you have Hillary trying to co-opt Elizabeth Warren on the hard left by saying things such as businesses don’t create jobs. She’s trying to move to the left.”