Weeks before Jeb Bush announced that he was exploring a 2016 presidential run and actually taking steps to put some campaign pieces together, surveys and polls were hastily taken to see whether the Bush name would render a potential run by him still born. Most showed that the Bush name was a serious liability. This was hardly a surprise. Six years after George W. Bush exited the White House, polls showed that millions of Americans still blamed him for sending the economy into free fall, and waging the failed, flawed and deeply unpopular Iraq war.
Many more haven't forgotten that Jeb's father, George H.W. Bush had the dubious distinction of being one of the handful of sitting American presidents beaten after one term in office. Respondent after respondent in the surveys about the Bush name repeatedly said that they couldn't stomach the thought of voting for another Bush because of the bad memories of his brother and father and the repugnant thought of creating a White House dynasty which is exactly what Jeb Bush to them in the White House would represent.
Jeb has frontally acknowledged the family name problem by loudly declaring that he's not his brother or father and will go his own way on the campaign trail and, if elected, in the White House. But whether that's true or not is less important than the assets that he will bring to the election table. One is the very thing that appears to be his political ball and chain: his name, Bush. In politics, as in life, name identification is everything -- both good and bad.
A big reason that Hillary Clinton has a virtual lock on the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, and some say the White House, is her name. It's universally known. And the same knock can be made about her and her name as Bush's. That is that there are a countless number of Americans that are wary of, and in many cases downright loathe, that name. They say they wouldn't vote for her simply because she's a Clinton. But no one would dare claim that her name automatically renders her campaign ten yards back from the starting line when the campaign gun officially goes off. The Bush name familiarity gave him an instant advantage over the other oft mentioned possible GOP presidential contenders the instant he said that he was potentially in the presidential hunt.
A May 13, Public Policy Polling poll on declared or likely GOP 2016 presidential candidates found that more Americans had a favorable than unfavorable opinion of Bush. Meanwhile, the declared GOP potential candidates such as Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz have been pulling out all stops to ram themselves in the media, public and GOP party leader's eyes for months before Bush publicly declared that he might run.
The 2016 presidential election almost certainly will be the most expensive campaign in American political history. In a head to head showdown against Hillary, who will have a king's ransom size campaign kitty, a GOP presidential contender will need money, and lots of it. The Bush name supposedly could be mud with millions of voters, and many hardline GOP conservatives, but it's not with the fat cat donors to the GOP. The Bush family connections would guarantee that they would bust wide open the purse strings on their campaign donations to him.
Bush would play hard on the "I am my own man" line and paint himself as a low key former effective reform governor who would emphasize fiscal conservatism, bipartisanship, modest immigration reform, and the ability to connect with Hispanic voters, and even some effort to get an uptick in African-American voter support. He'd have plenty of GOP hit operatives to lambaste Hillary as another big-government, tax-and-spend Democrat who allegedly will stunt growth and job creation by saddling corporations with burdensome regulations.
He, and they, would double down by playing hard on the doubt many voters have that her past, her views, and her political style would hamstring her effectiveness in getting things done. If she faced a House still firmly controlled by the GOP and a Senate with a GOP majority, it would be nothing but a virtual rerun of the rancor, infighting, and carping that has been the singular feature of the GOP's nonstop, unbroken assault on Obama. In short, as president, Hillary will not be able to get much done no matter her agenda with Congress, and the big loser would again be the country. The lines would be rigidly drawn. The supposedly brutal warfare between a Clinton White House and a GOP-dominated Congress would quickly spill over into the public and the media.
The Bush name will hurt. But there's just enough ways that it could also help to make it anything but certain that that name alone will sink his campaign.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. His forthcoming book is: From King to Obama: Witness to a Turbulent History (Middle Passage Press).
He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour heard weekly on the nationally network broadcast Hutchinson Newsmaker Network.