Clinton and Bush open a rematch of names with new candidates, agendas

The Bushes of Texas probably have a more legitimate claim, in the literal sense anyway, of the “dynastic” label than do the Clintons formerly of Arkansas and now of New York.

Whether either dynasty continues is now a full-blown drama. One more Bush and one more Clinton are officially in the 2016 campaign for president.

In the case of Jeb Bush, former Florida governor and the son of one president and brother of another, the claim to dynasty may be one he doesn’t want to make. Bush joined the run for the Republican presidential nomination as of June 15. His father, George H.W. Bush, now is a revered elder statesman, but his brother George W. Bush is remembered for the misguided invasion of Iraq and an economic collapse that was the nation’s worst since the Great Depression.

Hillary Clinton’s formal entry into the presidential race, coming two months before Bush’s announcement, included visions of the Roosevelts and clear appeals to the moderate Democratic base. The first in her “dynasty” is her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who left office with high popularity ratings despite an impeachment and admitted infidelity. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earned her own credentials as a United States senator and as a successful chief of foreign policy under President Obama.

So now it begins, with each candidate seeming, at this stage, to reach out to middle America, beyond the bases of their parties.

Each has challengers, Bush with many, some of them on the far right wing of his party, and Clinton with Bernie Sanders, the liberal senator from Vermont who prefers the independent label but is going for the Democratic nomination.

Bush won’t have an easy path to his nomination, and his early poll numbers against his opponents hardly show a consensus. His campaign rollout in Miami, after months of flirtation and coy references to a real campaign, seemed to want to shape him as a moderate who cares about the disadvantaged and the middle class. Bush’s problem, though, is that his party as represented by the GOP leaders in Congress has seemed preoccupied with one and only one mission: to bring down everything President Obama proposes.

It has long been a perception in mainstream politics that Republicans have to run to the right to gain the GOP nomination and then pull to the center and that Democrats capture their base on the left and then pull to the middle. Bush will have a bigger challenge than Clinton on that score. His party has been strongly influenced by tea party elements personified by one opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and libertarians such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who’s also in the race. Bush’s strategy seems to be to identify with neither and to make the argument for his campaign on the basis of “electability.”

Though Clinton will be needled to “go left” by Sanders, perhaps even get some early primary bruises along the way, she has no substantial opposition at this point. And her husband while president made deals with Republicans in Congress (notably, on welfare reform) wherein he eschewed the “left wing” label. Hillary Clinton has stayed clearly in the moderate mainstream. Her larger problem has been explaining the millions of dollars from foreign countries she and her husband have raised for their foundation.

Should the American people wind up with Bush and Clinton in the general election, they’ll be faced with billion-dollar campaigns that will bombard them will overblown rhetoric. In the end, though, the people have a way of making their choices based on their interests and, one hopes, the best interests of their country.