Jeb Bush may 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 Hillary by appropriating for herself the best reasons to elect Hillary (i.e. woman, first woman president), so 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 record made it impossible for him to attack Obama over his health care 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 Hillary also apply to Jeb. As Cokie and Steven Roberts noted recently, both are too old, each is too tied to Wall Street, and the two are equally dependent on a last name someone else made famous.
In a sense, Bush and Hillary 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. Hillary’s Wall Street connections offer a fertile field for Republican negative ads. These attacks would alienate Hillary from her base of liberal Democrats, drive down turnout, and even encourage outright voter switches.
Similarly, Hillary’s flip flops over the issue of illegal immigration — one minute saying the Central American children should be sent home and the next backing their claims to stay — would be hard for Jeb, an ardent immigration advocate, to make stick.
But the biggest issue against Hillary 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 Hillary is like the corporate CEO at a company her Daddy founded. Nobody can seriously believe that Hillary would have been able to get elected Senator in New York without a Democratic primary unless her husband were president at the time. State dinners became Hillary fundraisers in the last two years of the Clinton regime. Bill 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 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. Madeline Allbright would have had to wear out her scissors cutting ribbons before the media would notice or cover it. With Hillary it was automatic front page news — even if no diplomatic progress accompanied the display. In a sense, Hillary has really served as a second vice president, representing America abroad as a kind of symbol without substance.
While Jeb does has a significat record of accomplishment as Florida Governor — particularly in the field of education — he could not make the dynasty argument work against Hillary. Nominating Bush would let Clinton off the hook on her must vulnerable point — her dependence on her husband for a resume.
Against another Democrat, Bush may be our most electable choice, but not against Hillary.
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