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Has Clinton-Bush Fatigue Arrived?

Back in February, at a conservative conference in Iowa, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush appeared on stage with other prospective Republican presidential candidates. He was the only one who received jeers from the crowd. This was somewhat surprising, as Bush has made steady gains in recent polls and on the campaign money trail.  Could it be the fact that the Bush name has been on the Republican presidential ticket for six of the last nine presidential contests and people want someone new?  Or he is too moderate for today’s GOP?

Just recently, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been mired in a controversy for using a private email address with a private server to conduct state business.  Her adversaries alleged that it was a scheme to avoid divulging e-mails that would otherwise have been public information, in contravention of a 2009 State Department directive.  Curiously, Clinton has taken to social media to indicate her willingness to make the emails on the private server available to the general public.  Why not be ahead of the news curve and immediately call a press conference? She has since decided to hold a press conference.  However, the damage is done.

Last Sunday, on ABC’s “This Week” program, reputed reporter Mark Helpern asserted that Clinton’s management of the controversy will do serious harm to an eventual presidential run.  This was possibly an exaggeration, but indicative of a certain Clinton fatigue on the part of the media.

It is clear that both Bush and Clinton, while still officially undeclared, are the current frontrunners for their parties’ nominations in 2016.  It’s fair that they would receive greater public scrutiny.  In the case of Jeb Bush, it is obvious that the shadow of his brother George W. looms large, with two wars and the Great Recession in the background.  As for Hillary Clinton, the notion of secrecy so often associated with the Clinton years in the White House seems to have once again surfaced.

Are these candidates about to face a genuine desire for change in their respective parties, which may be looking ahead to new blood instead of a return to the past?  The Republican pundit class brags endlessly about a “deep bench” of prospective candidates about to contest the nomination. The names of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) are often described as the new generation of GOP leaders, able and about to take charge.

On the Democratic side, the race could very well be a coronation, since no serious prospective candidate, including Vice President Joe Biden, can come anywhere close to President Barack Obama’s feat of upsetting the Clinton electoral machine.  Like it or not, if Hillary decides to run, there appears to be no one available and able to challenge the “inevitability.”

There is some irony in all of this. Both Bush and Clinton have very strong credentials on their own—names notwithstanding—to challenge for the White House job. Jeb Bush, by most accounts, was a popular and successful governor. Hillary Clinton is more seasoned for the top job than her husband Bill was in 1992.

If both are leading the polls, it has to do more with qualifications and readiness, not just name recognition. The Republicans have in Jeb Bush a die-hard conservative with sensible policies on immigration reform and education. His policies, along with a potential overture to Latino votes (his wife is Hispanic and he speaks fluent Spanish), have the potential to attract key swing voters in ways that other potential opponents have yet to demonstrate.

Hillary Clinton, by all accounts, was a strong senator and an effective secretary of state.  She has earned her dues and is supremely qualified to be president—more so than in 2008.

Yes, I agree there is some fatigue setting in. However, once the contest really begins, those who oppose Bush and Clinton will still have a steep uphill battle to defeat them and win their party’s nomination.

*John Parisella is the former Québec delegate general in New York and currently a visiting professor at the University of Montréal’s International Relations Center. He is also a Member of the Board of Directors of The Montreal Council on Foreign Relations.

Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: U.S. presidential elections, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush

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