Here in Texas we keep our Bushes straight with some simple shorthand:
George H.W. Bush = 41
George W. Bush = W.
George P. Bush = P.
(We don’t have one for Jeb Bush but he hangs his hat in Florida, not the Lone Star state!)
Now that P. has officially thrown his hat in the ring for Texas Land Commissioner some, most notably Mark McKinnon of the W. administration, have taken to moving from an initial to a number – 47; as in the forty-seventh president of the United States.
At the national level there is much discussion of Bush fatigue. With talk of P./47’s father, Jeb Bush, jumping in the race, the question is whether enough time has passed for Americans to forget about the foreign and domestic failures of George W. Bush. W., the 43rd president, left office with one of the lowest approval ratings of 34 percent and dipped down to a 25 percent low.
Regardless of his own merits and flaws, Jeb Bush is too close to the shadow of his brother. If Jeb’s last name were not Bush, he would have a good shot at a presidential run. He is considered a shrewd politico who managed his executive duties as governor of Florida efficiently, especially the record-breaking hurricane seasons of the mid 2000s, a stark contrast to his brother’s handling of Katrina.
Jeb Bush has also been a visionary in the need of the GOP to reach out to the Latino community. Sure, he’s recently waffled on the granting of citizenship to undocumented persons but his past actions and statements all point to a very consistently moderate stance on immigration.
While Jeb Bush may cling on to the belief that time cures all, eight years likely isn’t going to do the trick. Let’s give it 24. If things go as planned for P., he could very well be following in his family presidential footsteps by 2038. In other words, dad’s presidential role may best be served by guiding his son.
Abroad, meaning outside of Texas, there may be Bush fatigue, but there is none in the Lone Star state. George W. Bush was a popular governor and his father is beloved as an elder statesman. Aside from the good feelings still associated with the name is the practical power of fundraising. As a Bush, P. has ready access to fundraising networks that other politico newcomers would have to spend years making.
P. is a shoe-in for the position of Land Commissioner. It’s not as glamorous as governor or attorney general, but it is a cautious and well-calculated run. Moreover, the down ballot position is one of those offices where the occupant can make it what he wants of it. For example, former Land Commissioner Garry Mauro used the office as a mini Environmental Protection Agency where he was able to effectively highlight and address issues concerning the environment. The current land commissioner, Jerry Patterson, in contrast has used the position to highlight his more conservative bent and business-friendly view of land usage.
George P. Bush will likely flex a business-friendly muscle as Land Commissioner. However, he will also be able to show leadership on issues such as water and energy that could nicely work toward a national level political resume. In the meantime, P. can further deepen his networks within the Republican Party, in particular among younger Republicans and Latinos.
Unlike for his father, time is on P.’s side. He will have to wait eight to twelve years before he can make the big run for governor. But that’s actually a good thing. At 36 he is a pup and will be well served by walking before he runs. He also benefits from standing back while the GOP at the national level takes a couple of years to find itself. And finally, he will be able to reap the positive associations from being a Bush and be far enough removed from the negative ones to carry on the torch.
Dr. Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto is an NBC Latino and MSNBC contributor, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Fellow at the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, at Austin.