Published on TheHill.com on January 6, 2015
Jeb Bush might be the most electable Republican against a generic Democratic candidate, but against Hillary Clinton, he would be the weakest nominee we could field.
Just as Elizabeth Warren poses a unique threat to Clinton by appropriating for herself the best reasons to elect Clinton (i.e., she’s a woman, she would be the first female president), Bush is the least threatening to the former first lady because he draws to himself the same negatives that she does.
In 2012, Rick Santorum argued that RomneyCare in Massachusetts made it impossible for Mitt Romney to attack President Obama over his healthcare plan. So, Romney had to attack only over the economy — a hard case to pin down — rather than a double-barreled offensive that included ObamaCare.
And so it would be for a Bush-Clinton race. The leading negatives against the ex-secretary of State also apply to the former Florida governor. As Cokie and Steven Roberts noted recently, both are too old, both are too tied to Wall Street and the two are equally dependent on a last name that someone else made famous.
In a sense, Bush and Clinton are co-dependents. Each makes the other into Teflon over their biggest negatives.
Most voters are nauseated by the prospect of another Bush-Clinton race. Like Ali-Frazier, this act has gotten old. But if you are going to have a Clinton as the Democrat, many Republicans shrug their shoulders and say that they might as well nominate a Bush.
But to do so would be shortsighted. Clinton’s Wall Street connections offer a fertile field for Republican negative ads. These attacks would alienate Clinton from her base of liberal Democrats, drive down turnout and even encourage outright voter switches.
Similarly, her flip-flops over the issue of illegal immigration — one minute saying Central American children should be sent home and the next backing their claims to stay — would be hard for Bush, an ardent immigration advocate, to make stick.
But the biggest issue against Hillary Clinton is that she is trading off her husband’s name and record. With a distinct lack of accomplishments at the State Department and a Senate record devoid of substance, there is little she can point to. As one commentator recently noted, hers is a resume without accomplishments.
With most candidates, merely having been senator or secretary of State would be an accolade and credential. But Clinton is like the corporate CEO at a company her daddy founded. Nobody can seriously believe she would have been able to get elected in New York without a Democratic primary unless her husband were president at the time. State dinners became fundraisers in the last two years of the Clinton regime. Bill Clinton blasted away any potential primary opponents and let a woman who had never lived in New York brush aside the field and win the nomination uncontested.
Even as secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was able to draw national and international attention simply by traveling the world and dedicating day care centers because she was Bill Clinton’s wife. It was her name, not her work, that attracted the attention. Madeleine Albright would have had to wear out her scissors cutting ribbons before the media would notice or cover it. With Clinton it was automatic front-page news — even if no diplomatic progress accompanied the display. In a sense, she really served as a second vice president under Obama, representing America abroad as a kind of symbol without substance.
While Jeb Bush does has a significant record of accomplishment as governor — particularly in the field of education — he could not make the dynasty argument work against Clinton. Nominating Bush would let her off the hook on her most vulnerable point — her dependence on her husband for a resume.
Against another Democrat, Bush may be our most electable choice. But not against Hillary Clinton.
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