American politics never ceases to entertain, appal and amaze. With the entry of Jeb bush into the Presidential Race, we have the very real prospect of another Clinton v Bush contest, a whopping 24 years after the 1992 original. In life and political terms, that’s a whole generation ago; for this author (in his early Forties), it would be like looking back into the 1950s to election races a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. What lies ahead for Clinton-Bush redux? What are the strengths and weaknesses for both individuals?
2016 is a long way away if we heed to the maxim that a week is a long time in politics. However, even this far in advance, the importance of getting a good start and dominating the process will be at the forefront of both campaigns. They will both be aiming to be the ‘TINA’ candidates; they will hope to turn round to their respective Parties and say ‘Look, There.Is.No.Alternative’. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush will be seeking to have the race over before it has begun. This is politics where the winner not only takes all, but all opposition is destroyed in the process.
Let’s look at Jeb Bush. Purportedly the smarter of the brothers – quiet at the back there – Jeb is a moderate in Republican terms. This means he has taken stances that won’t appeal to the Base but may gain traction with the wider electorate. The problem is if, and there’s a long way to go, if he gets the nomination, he may already have been portrayed as a latter-day Romney; privileged, protecting the interests of the 1% and part of a dynasty out of touch with the aspirations of middle America.
Yet he has strengths. He is articulate. He is the Republican that could win back much of the Hispanic vote that went Democrat in 2012. He speaks fluent Spanish, for goodness sake. His moderate stances and positions, by Republican calibrations, mean that he can potentially reach out beyond the Angry Constituency that is much of the GOP Primary vote. He may well get the early backing of Big Money and Republican Party grandees keen to avoid the circus-like atmosphere of the 2012 nomination process. In short, he is a very strong candidate and has real prospects of blowing other candidates out of the water. He could have the Party Nomination sewn up well before it becomes a Race; he is already a hot favourite.
What of HRC? Let’s look at her weaknesses first; some of which may also be seen as strengths. She too is part of a dynasty, albeit by marriage. She has a partisan legacy that still isn’t totally dispelled; older voters may not warm to her, she may be seen as overly ambitious (would the same be said about a male candidate and on the same terms? Perhaps not). Then there’s the question of where she really stands on anything; is she a conviction politician or more of a ‘Traingulator’ like her husband Bill?Will President Clinton (Bill) lose it during the campaign? Will Left-wing Democrats come out and eventually vote for someone who can easily be perceived as on the economic Right of the Party? Will Monica Lewinsky’s name come up again and again? All of these factors are negatives that will have been gamed and planned on by the Spin Doctors. But Hillary’s positives may far outweigh her negatives.
She has name recognition that surpasses Jeb Bush’s. Bill will be a formidable campaigner on the stump and 2016 will be a repeat of the adage that if you vote for one, you get two. Bill Clinton has become hugely popular since his retirement. They will be an incredibly united and determined couple; Jeb Bush will be taking on a formidable team. HRC will be able to tap into as much corporate wealth as Bush will; see how much she’ll raise on from the West Coast Silicon Valley moguls compared to Bush Wall Street money. Hillary can make history by becoming the first female President and if nominated she will have Obama touring the stump for her, making some more ’08 style Home Run speeches. It would be the arc of history in full sweep; Obama supporting his once defeated rival. For all these reasons, HRC will be tough to beat.
Anything can happen between now and the next US General Election. But it is rare that at such an early stage, pundits are predicting who the two nominees will be. There is many a slip between cup and lip; lots can go wrong for both individuals before 2016. This contest may lack the excitement and rhetoric of 2008 but it could be epic nonetheless. Once again, the Game of Thrones is taking place; whether it is Clinton or Bush that survives the clash of the dynasties, well, this is one that is beyond the power of the prognosticators.