It’s alive! On Tuesday the Bush family political dynasty returned from wherever it has been lately as George P. Bush, nephew of ex-President George W. Bush, won the Republican nomination for Texas land commissioner.
The victory was not a surprise – it’s long been clear that Mr. Bush’s name and personal political skills would carry him to victory in the Texas GOP primary. In the red Lone Star State, he’ll almost certainly win the general election in November as well, vaulting him into a statewide office that’s been the starting point for several prominent politicians.
So who has a brighter future: George P., or his father, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush? Get ready to hear subject-starved pundits chew on that ad infinitum. Yes, Jeb has long been the Bush-in-waiting, thought to be next in line for an Oval Office run if he so chooses.
But "P" (can we call him that already?) has some advantages over his dad. He’s part-Hispanic, as his mother, Columba, was born in Mexico. He speaks Spanish fluently at a time the GOP is struggling to figure out how to reach this fast-growing constituency. He has also continued the Bush family trek away from its preppy patrician roots. He has called himself a “movement conservative,” as opposed to uncle W’s “compassionate conservative” Texas tag.
And he’s young, but not that young. At 37, P is one year older than John Kennedy was when the latter was elected to the US Senate. JFK was president at 43. Just noting that for the record.
OK, maybe that’s enough irresponsible speculation. The fact is that in comparison to his dad, Jeb, P lacks experience and a certain gravitas – and national-level opponents would be sure to point that out. His time may be coming, but it is not yet. The real question is whether Jeb’s time is coming, or whether it disappeared when brother "W" won the top job.
As Sean Sullivan of The Fix political blog at the Washington Post wrote earlier this year, Jeb remains the single biggest question mark in the 2016 presidential invisible primary. That’s the stage when potential candidates gauge their strength with donors and party elites, and it’s going on now.
No other Republican has the power to scramble the race as much as Jeb does, according to Mr. Sullivan.
“No other top tier Republican has broadcast as much genuine uncertainty about his plans,” he writes.
If anything, Mr. Bush may now be feeling more pressure to run. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s star has fallen as a result of Bridge-gate, meaning the establishment GOP may lack an obvious candidate. Many Mitt Romney donors have expressed an interest in supporting Bush, for what that’s worth. It’s possible that Bush is uniquely positioned to unite the party’s warring establishment and conservative factions.
It’s also possible that another candidate named Bush will drive tea party adherents nuts. Many see W as a RINO (Republican In Name Only) who supported increased government spending, after all. Jeb’s numbers in early voter polls are OK but not great for somebody with his name recognition. In the RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys of Republican primary voters, he ranks behind former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Governor Christie, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
And his mom is still not helping. Matriarch Barbara Bush was on "Fox & Friends" Wednesday and once again said bad things about the prevalence of US political dynasties.
Mrs. Bush said that, when it comes to political dynasties in a country the size of the United States, there should be “more than three families,” apparently referring to the Bushes, the Clintons, and the Kennedys.
“I mean we’ve got great governors, other people, I just don’t understand it,” she told Fox’s Steve Doocy.
She did add that she feels Jeb Bush is the best-qualified person in the country for the Oval Office. “Put me down as saying that,” Mrs. Bush said.
Of course, in pure voter appeal there might be another older-generation Bush who surpasses Jeb. That would be her. Barbara Bush’s favorability ratings while her husband was in office are the highest for any recent first lady, a recent Gallup poll notes. She had 77 percent approval in that period. In contrast, Michelle Obama’s average approval rating during her husband’s presidnecy is 66 percent.