Jeb Bush got headlines last week when he opened the door to a presidential run, after years of insisting he was not interested.
So it’s of some note that when CPAC attendees at the annual gathering outside Washington this week go to vote in the group’s straw poll for 2016, they will not find his name on the ballot. Why not? Because he asked not to be on it, according to the Conservative Political Action Conference. (Bush’s spokeswoman confirmed this to CNN.)
CPAC right now is run by Al Cardenas, who happened to be Bush’s handpicked Republican Party of Florida chairman for Bush’s first term as that state’s governor. They were also friends for years before that, so CPAC was sure to honor Bush’s request. (Bush is delivering the event’s marquee speech, at Friday night’s dinner. The straw poll results are scheduled to be announced on Saturday.)
So does this mean Bush has decided not to run for president, after all?
Well, given the predictive track record of the CPAC straw poll through the years, maybe not. Consider: Since the straw poll was first held in 1976, only two of its winners have gone on to win the presidency — Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Only one other poll winner, Mitt Romney, even went on to win the Republican nomination (Romney is the all-time winning-est CPAC straw poll contender, with four victories; 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012).
The other straw poll winners: Jack Kemp (three-time winner), Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Rudy Giuliani, George Allen and Ron Paul (two-time winner).
Actually, given that roster, perhaps Bush’s decision to stay off CPAC’s ballot is definitive proof that he is running.
S.V. Dáte is the congressional editor on NPR’s Washington Desk.