President 2016: The Clash of the Bush and Clinton Dynasties

In retrospect, President Clinton is remembered more for a golden economy than for the sex scandal. It sure didn't look this way as America said farewell to Bill Clinton in January 2001, yet public perceptions shift over time.

Bush's challenge is much greater. He carries the burden of his brother's more recent and very controversial presidency. Voters don't need to see George W. on the campaign trail to remember Iraq, Katrina, and economic disaster. The previous Bush presidency wasn't that long ago.

Both Bush 41 and 43 have a legacy of economic struggle, and that reinforces Jeb's dilemma and gives Hillary a big opening.

So what does Jeb do? Beyond asserting independence ("I'm my own man") he has to draw as many distinctions with his brother as possible. Still, most people know Jeb owes his position to his family name, and Jeb basically endorsed everything George did at the time.

Jeb has to hope his enormous war chest and establishment backing propels him to the nomination, and then maybe voters in the fall of 2016 will want change badly enough that they'll pick the Republican ticket, whatever their doubts about installing yet another Bush.

In that sense, an election between a Bush and a Clinton might turn out to be more about the current occupant of the White House than either of the dynasties.

A word on Trump

Table 1 shows our updated 2016 Republican presidential rankings (our Democratic rankings are unchanged). In an effort to prune a list that feels like it is ever-expanding, we have removed hawkish Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who hasn't made much noise about actually running lately and whose potential role in the field as a foil to dovish Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is now being filled by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

In his place amongst the "Gadflies and Golden Oldies" goes businessman Donald Trump, who announced for president on Tuesday in a rambling speech.

The key thing to note about Trump is that he is deeply unpopular both nationally and with Republicans. Quinnipiac University recently found him with a weak 34% favorable/52% unfavorable rating nationally among Republicans. A Monmouth University poll released earlier this week was even worse: 20% favorable and 55% unfavorable. That -35 point favorability gap was far worse than any other Republican, dwarfing that of even Graham and Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), who are also unpopular with Republicans. Few give those two much chance of winning the nomination, and Trump's odds are as bad and probably worse.

Team Trump argues that with such a big field, Trump has enough niche support that he can get some traction in the early states and grow from there. It's not impossible that Trump will make some noise, and he is such an over-sized (some would say outrageous) personality that he's guaranteed to generate coverage, perhaps at the expense of other GOP candidates. This may be true particularly in the coming dog days of a summer campaign, when Trump's rhetorical bomb-throwing will fill column inches and airtime. While unpopular, Trump is well-known, and that name ID could keep him in the top 10 of national polling by the time of the first Republican debate in Cleveland on Aug. 6 -- a ticket to the stage and a huge TV audience. (Trump is now at about 4% in the RealClearPolitics polling average, and no. 9 overall in the GOP field.)

However, it should not shock anyone if Trump's dalliance with the 2016 campaign turns out to be brief. The billionaire could be long gone from the race by the time the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, if his efforts are not bearing fruit and he wants to preserve The Apprentice. Trump has a well-earned reputation as a national novelty act that he will have to overcome if he wants to be taken seriously by both the press and the voters.

Click here for a graph of the various presidential candidates.

Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley are analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. You can read more of their reviews of political races at

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