| Funny thing: a phrase heard frequently on Capitol Hill nowadays is, "We shouldn't be a nation that picks winners and losers." Yet that's what we do. As far as the public is concerned, picking an American president seems at times little different than picking an American Idol.
Barring full-scale war, economic collapse or other catastrophes in the next few years, Americans are likely to look for a candidate in 2016 who seems the most "normal."
Richard Nixon was outside the norm, and was replaced by the supremely normal Gerald Ford, by process, and Jimmy Carter, by vote. Then we had Ronald Reagan, who was as far removed from DC politics as geography and philosophy would allow, followed by the straight arrow George H. W. Bush. Next came the maverick Bill Clinton, leading us to the plain vanilla terms of George W. Bush, positioned as, “the guy you’d most like to have a beer with.”
Some explain this as a swinging of the pendulum, a course correction. But it's also a pattern in which daring choices are followed by a collective deep breath.
Electing Barrack Obama was the boldest move American voters have made in decades. Regardless of what you think of his presidency – and I believe history will view it far more favorably than current opinion polls do – America is ready for another time out.
That's probably the biggest thing Hillary Clinton has going against her. The nation is not likely to elect its first woman president immediately after selecting its first African American president – even if doing so would be a fine idea. Americans also don't like seemingly preordained candidates and, in the minds of many Democrats, Clinton might just as well skip the election and go straight to taking the oath.
Among Republicans, New Jersey's Chris Christie is damaged, and probably wasn’t going to score nationally even before his bridge scandal. Wisconsin's Scott Walker is too extreme, and Kentucky's Rand Paul too toxic. Florida's Marco Rubio and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal are not ready for prime time. Texas' Rick Perry had his chance in 2012 and self-destructed.
They will all be heard from as the campaign takes shape, but none provides the comfort level that GOP voters – except, perhaps, those at the Tea Party fringes – need this time around. Ohio’s John Kasich and Indiana’s Mike Pence are real possibilities. As governors, they’re properly positioned away from the stench in Washington that has left voters holding their noses, but neither has much national recognition.
Enter Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who, according to CNN, has quietly started talking to fundraisers and is taking a “very serious look” at running in 2016.
A third Bush in the White House? Even some center-right Republicans might blanch at that after what, to put it kindly, was the less than glorious presidency of George W.
Then again, Jeb was always a smart administrator and a savvy politician. Although his mother, Barbara Bush, has come out publicly against it, the Florida Bush might be the candidate best suited to repair serious splits in GOP ranks.
Don’t be surprised if, come 2016, the nation decides that a Bush in the hand is worth two in the polls.
(c) Peter Funt. This column was originally distributed by the Cagle syndicate.