Less than a week after Jeb Bush announced that he was "seriously exploring" a bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, there is disagreement over whether being the son and brother of past presidents will help or hurt his candidacy.
Asked whether Bush's two terms as governor of Florida (1998-2006) were too far removed from the present, veteran Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told a Christian Science Monitor press breakfast that "his problem is more Bush than governor."
Lake's reply is the standard assessment these days from the punditocracy and political scientists about the prospects of a "Bush 45" in the White House. As historian David Pietrusza, author of three much-praised books on presidential election years, told Newsmax: "There were not three Adamses, nor three Harrisons, nor three Roosevelts ever seeking the White House."
"Three times may not be the charm for the Bushes — or any — presidential dynasty."
Brothers have followed each other in a nation's highest office in several countries abroad. In Japan, Nobusuke Kishi served as prime minister from 1957 to 1960, and brother Eisako Sato held the office from 1964 to 1972. (Sato is the family name, but the young Nobusuke was adopted by the wealthy Kishi family and took their name. Kishi and Sato are respectively the grandfather and great-uncle of current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.)
In Thailand, Kukrit Pramoj, famed for portraying a southeast Asian prime minister in the 1963 movie "The Ugly American," became prime minister by unseating his older brother Seni from the job in 1975. A year later, Seni turned the tables on Kukrit and won his old office back.
There is nothing like sibling rivalry or sibling succession in U.S. presidential politics. Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, and whether he would have won the Democratic nomination and won the presidency held by his brother Jack is unknown.
Their youngest brother, Edward Kennedy, tried to win the Democratic nomination in 1980 but floundered badly and lost to Jimmy Carter.
The only "brother act" in terms of presidential politics is that of William Jennings Bryan, three times the Democratic nominee for president, and brother Charles W. Bryan, governor of Nebraska and vice presidential running mate on the losing Democratic ticket headed by John W. Davis in 1924.
"But on another level, Jeb is certainly assisted mightily by being a Bush," added Pietrusza. "Compare the attention he draws after several years out of office to that of New York's [former Republican Gov.] George Pataki, who is often floated as a presidential candidate.
"Jeb draws far more discussion as a national candidate than Pataki ever did, despite the fact that Pataki served three terms as governor to Jeb's two and won in a much more difficult state for a Republican."
Irwin Gellman, whose second book in a series on the life of Richard Nixon will be published shortly, told Newsmax: "The good news is Jeb Bush has great name recognition. The bad news is he has great name recognition. Based on his record as governor, he's his own man. But it will hurt him to be saddled with his father and brother — especially in the Republican primaries."
Despite a decidedly conservative record as governor, Bush is sure to come under fire in a Republican Party that is increasingly conservative for such recent positions as support for immigration reform and the "Common Core" federal education standards.
But Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution views Bush and his family in a different manner.
"I can't see the Bushes dragging Jeb up or down, so that's pretty good for him," said Hess, author of "American Political Dynasties."
Noting that he was recently quoted in the Washington Post on John Quincy Adams and how his president-father helped or hurt him, Hess said: "I said to myself, "Who's thinking about John Quincy Adams?' People are asking a simple question: what do I want most in a president?'"
He added that "there's another candidate with a famous name who will have more troubles than Jeb Bush, and that's Hillary Clinton. She's more controversial and she'll have more pulls on her in the other [left-of-center] direction than Jeb Bush will have [pulling him to the right]."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.