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Bush on Bush: George W. likes Jeb's chances in 2016, but would voters agree?

Just when Americans were beginning to think of former President George W. Bush as an artist, he’s ventured back into the world of politics.

But at least he’s keeping it all in the family. He recently told Parade Magazine that his younger brother Jeb would be the best presidential candidate for 2016.

George W. Bush, who served as the nation’s 43rd president from January of 2001 through January of 2009, has recently been in the news for his post-presidential artistic pursuits, prompting Bush family friend and Dallas artist Pamela Nelson to tell the Dallas Morning News, “He’s pretty fearless as an artist.”

But with speculation swirling around a possible Jeb Bush candidacy in 2016, the former president weighed in with his thoughts during an interview with Parade in advance of the opening of the Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University May 1 in Dallas.

This Thursday, President Barack Obama and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton will be in Dallas for the dedication of the Bush facilities.

The former president, 66, heaped praise on Jeb, 60, during the Parade interview. “Yeah, I told him he ought to run, and he didn’t answer me. [laughs] No, he’d be great. He’s got a proven track record. He was a governor of a big state. He’s very articulate. He could deliver a convention speech in Spanish. In my judgment, he’s right on the issues, [but] whether he runs or not, I have no idea.”

Opinion

If Jeb Bush does decide to run for president in 2016, he would immediately become a top-tier candidate for the Republican nomination, joining the likes of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Love them, hate them or simply wish they would go away, the Bush family has a proven track record of victories in presidential elections, winning three out of four times. George H.W. Bush managed a come-from-behind victory over the capable and talented Michael Dukakis in 1988, erasing Dukakis’ 17-point September lead and going on to trounce the former Massachusetts governor in the 1988 November election.

And while it’s true that George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Democrat Al Gore in 2000, he still took the presidential oath in 2001, albeit with an assist from the US Supreme Court.

His re-election in 2004 was marred by allegations of GOP funny business in Ohio, but Bush, not John Kerry, was president when Hurricane Katrina wrought its destruction on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, a natural disaster that proved to be a crucial turning point in public opinion about the 43rd US president.

Simply put, Bushes know how to win presidential elections – even if they don’t get the most votes.

But could a Jeb Bush candidacy revive the Bush magic when it comes to presidential quests? It all depends on the Democratic nominee, of course, but if former US senator and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is his opponent, don’t count on it. After all, the only person to ever beat a Bush in a presidential election was a Clinton named Bill, and he did so when George H.W. Bush had the advantage of incumbency in 1992.

Nonetheless, the Bushes are doing what they need to do to make Jeb Bush a feasible candidate for 2016 should the former Florida governor decide to seek the White House. With George W. Bush reinventing himself as a sensitive artist and George H.W. Bush now a de facto elder statesman by virtue of being the oldest surviving former US president, Jeb would have relatively little Bush baggage in 2016.

If President Barack Obama’s approval ratings slip into the high 20s and low 30s as George W. Bush’s did in late 2008, then the negative connotations of the Bush family name might be negated by widespread anti-Obama sentiment and Hillary Clinton’s role in Obama’s first administration.

It’s a long way to November 2016, but the Bush family is making the necessary preparations to give Jeb Bush a serious chance and joining Bush 41 and Bush 43 with another odd number behind a very familiar -- some would say too familiar -- American name.

Bush 45, anyone?

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Sources and resources:

http://www.georgewbushlibrary.smu.edu/

http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/04/21/4791917/bush-set-to-dedicate-presidential.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1595494

Additional sources and resources embedded in text; opinions primarily those of the author.

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