Every political observer knows the “brand” names Bush and Clinton. Jonah Goldberg explores in his latest column what those brands mean for potential presidential contenders Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
[T]he effort to lump the Clintons and the Bushes into the category of political dynasties tends to distract us from the very real differences in their brands.
Let’s start with Jeb Bush. For years, conservatives have quietly spoken of how we elected “the wrong Bush” in 2000. Jeb’s national reputation on the right was always better than George’s, at least outside of Texas. But Jeb lost his first bid for Florida governor and that ruined the timing for him. As a result, George W. was able to successfully trade on the value of the Bush brand first.
The trouble is, fairly or unfairly, that brand is tarnished. Among the rank and file of the GOP — particularly among tea-party types — no one wants to see another Bush on the ballot. It’s not unimaginable that a Bush nomination would spark a significant third-party movement on the right.
Bush’s problems aren’t entirely attributable to his last name. For instance, to conservative grassroots activists, his support for the education reform Common Core is a major black mark. But, all other things being equal, the bar would be much lower for him if his last name were Smith.
Things are very different for Hillary Clinton. At least within her party, the name Clinton is nothing but an asset. She benefits not only from her husband’s successes but also from the sympathy for her generated by his personal failures.
More intriguingly, she’s aided by many of Barack Obama’s failures, too. If Obama’s presidency had been more of a success, the left wing of the Democratic party might balk at giving Team Clinton another shot. Her positioning to Obama’s right in the primaries is largely why she lost.
But after two terms of partisan gridlock and anemic economic growth, Clinton the technocrat is palatable, particularly given the burning desire to elect a female president.