Here are a few reasons why. First, Hillary.
Without even doing or saying anything related to the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton is already the run-away favourite to secure the Democratic nomination. Her record of public service and her public profile are unmatched by anyone else in the Party. Politco neatly summed up Hillary’s very impressive credentials like this:
A first lady-turned-senator-turned-presidential candidate-turned Secretary of State with 100-percent name ID and deep popularity who would, oh yes, make history as the nation’s first female president.
Hillary was the first First Lady in history to have her own office in the West Wing of the White House, no doubt to signify that she is serious about policy. In the Senate she sat on several committees including the Armed Services Committee and her record is positive although, curiously, there are no substantive legislative achievements to her name.
As Secretary of State she has gained her praise from the likes of Google chairman Eric Schmidt who described her as “the most significant Secretary of State since Dean Acheson.”
Her time at the State Dept. coincided with some major global achievements: the liberation of Libya, the death of Osama Bin Laden (who can forget that picture), the freeing of Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, a diplomatic opening to Burma, and the isolation of Syrian President Assad.
There are, however, questions over the extent to which any of these can be chalked up as Clinton victories, rather than events that happened on her watch.
This is partly a result of her relationship with President Obama, as Stephen M Walt explains: “Clinton isn’t a great secretary of state because that is not the role that she’s been asked to play in this administration.”
While there is no doubting Hillary’s energy and activism as SoS, perhaps the recent New Yorker headline describes it best: “Hillary Was a Great Ambassador, Not a Great Secretary of State”.
What is clear is that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a formidable candidate with a formidable record. Whoever runs against her in 2016 will need to be a seriously impressive republican with a first-class record.
Step forward Jeb Bush.
After losing in his first attempt at the Florida Governor’s mansion to incumbent Lawton Chiles, John Ellis Bush ran again four years later – and won – focussing on issues normally reserved for Democratic candidates. Jeb Bush was only the third Republican Governor in Florida’s history, and the only one to be re-elected.
Jeb Bush’s record as Governor includes some notable achievements – not to mention a departing favourability rating of over 60%, an achievement beyond many two-term governors who tend to leave office with declining ratings (it’s worth noting that Hillary also left the State Dept. with high favourability ratings).
On healthcare, Jeb Bush enacted Medicade reforms to give patients greater decision making powers by allowing them to choose the coverage that best meets their needs.
He has strong green credentials having succeeded in a project to restore America’s Everglades.
On the economy, Bush cut taxes every year he was in office, he reduced the number of government employees by over 14,000, he vetoed spending programmes, and he created the Centre for Efficient Government to improve government effectiveness.
On education – the area he says he is most proud of – Bush established the A+ Plan for Education, which increased accountability of schools and which in turn resulted in significant grade improvements among students, and he introduced a scholarship programme for low-income students.
Recently, former Chief of Staff to George W Bush, Andy Card expressed glowing support for Jeb Bush as President. This is significant because it suggests that there might be other senior republicans like Card who were loyal to George W Bush and who would also get behind Jeb.
Finally, one major feather in Jeb Bush’s cap is that he will do very well among Latino voters. He speaks Spanish and is married to a Mexican American – Columba Bush – and is even considered by some as an Hispanic Republican!
So there you have it. My prediction. Bush vs. Clinton in 2016.
There are many reasons why this prediction may not come true, not least of which being that neither Jeb Bush nor Hillary Clinton have said that they will even run in 2016. Add to that the much talked about “Bush fatigue” on the one side and, on the other, the sense that Hillary has been here before, and you begin to see why Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 may not materialise.
But I hope it does. Both Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton possess a rare quality: statesmanship. Today’s serious issues need to be met with serious solutions by serious politicians. No doubt the 2016 race will have its fair share of gimmicks, slogans, and mud-slinging (as all modern political campaigns do) but perhaps it will also be defined by the quality of debate between two statesmen. I hope so.