There is no dispute that the Republican Party has struggled in recent years to gain the support of women and minorities. Despite big-name Republicans like Condoleezza Rice, Nikki Haley and Marco Rubio within the ranks, the party is still falling flat with the aforementioned voting blocs, which are forming an increasingly large proportion of the electorate. With the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election looming on the horizon, the GOP is scrambling to present a streamlined, united front to the American people. Jeb Bush, one potential candidate, could help the party appeal to a wider range of voters through his more moderate stances on issues like education and immigration. He is quickly emerging as the Republican frontrunner for 2016. Much is known about the Bush family; Barbara, W., Bush Senior and Laura are all household names. However, there is one mysterious member of the Bush clan with whom America is not very familiar: Columba Bush, Jeb Bush’s wife.
Born in Mexico, Columba met Jeb when she was just 17 years old and has made an effort to stay out of the spotlight since marrying into the Bush family. She has shown great reluctance when it comes to speaking at rallies or campaigning, which led many to question whether she would support a potential presidential run by her husband. However a recent report by The New York Times revealed that during the holidays, Mrs. Bush said she would support her husband if he decides to run.
Now, the question is, will she become her husband’s secret weapon on the campaign trail? Friends of the couple have emphasized Columba’s penchant for simplicity and desire to help the community while staying out of the glare of the media and many think this fact could help Jeb Bush secure the nomination. Though she is generally perceived as shy, Bush supporters say that Columba has been largely underestimated. She has chosen to be her own person rather than merely the wife of a politician, but those close to the family emphasize that she is ready to step up and handle all that comes with a high-profile national campaign.
Despite Bush supporters looking at Columba as a way to appeal to minorities — especially Hispanic voters — her lifelong reticence to being involved in politics speaks volumes. Looking across the aisle at the likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, the contrast between these spouses could not be greater. Bill Clinton has navigated the political landscape for decades and both Hillary and Bill have been in the public eye long enough to be recognizable nearly anywhere. Meanwhile, the Bush campaign will have to “sell” this couple to a country that for the most part, has never heard of Columba. She will have to throw herself into the campaign and market herself. The problem is not whether she will be able to — because as sources have said, she is an incredibly talented woman — but whether she will want to do so. The American people respond to charisma and authenticity; they will be able to tell if Columba’s heart isn’t in the campaign; they will be able to tell if she’d rather be elsewhere.
Furthermore, it is unlikely that the far-right wing of the Republican Party will be too excited about endorsing a candidate whose deeply personal connection to the Hispanic community will likely lead him to adopt more lenient immigration policies than they would like. This could lay the groundwork for a dark-horse candidate to steal the nomination away from Bush, as in 2008 with President Obama’s unprecedented win over Hillary Clinton.
At this point, conjecture is the name of the game. History has shown that campaigns are fickle things, susceptible to drastic changes in the blink of an eye. But for now, Columba Bush could be in the running to become America’s first Hispanic first lady, giving the Republican Party a much-needed breath of fresh air. One thing is certain: this is sure to be an interesting race. Sit back, grab some popcorn and let the games begin!
Photo Courtesy of Pam Royal, Times
Sabrina Leung ‘18 is the Digital Editor majoring in International Relations-Political Science with a minor in History. She is best reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @sabrinatzleung on Twitter.