Here are the elements Bush and the Republican Party have to weigh for 2016:
The dynasty factor. There was a Bush or a Clinton on a national party ticket for the seven consecutive presidential elections between 1980 and 2004. If either Bush or Clinton wins a nomination in 2016, that would mean that one or both families would have been on a major-party ticket in 80 percent of the American presidential elections since “M.A.S.H” was one of the nation’s leading television shows and Pink Floyd was one of the leading music groups.
“If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for high office,” Jeb Bush’s mother, Barbara Bush, said in January, “that’s silly.”
There is another way to look at modern American dynastic politics. There was a Bush or a Dole on eight consecutive Republican national tickets between 1976 and 2004. This is a situation more akin to the politics of the Philippines and Indonesia than to the American political tradition.
The kinder, gentler factor. That phrase was popularized by Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, but clearly Bush feels that impulse in his desire for a change in the tone of American politics. In his remarks last week at an event honoring the senior President Bush at Texas A&M University, Bush spoke of a “hopeful, optimistic message.”
That sentiment differs little from what his brother, then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, expressed in his 2000 race and from what Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois voiced in his 2008 race.
But Bush made an unusually strong appeal to his own party to abandon heated rhetoric and divisiveness. He has viewed this shrillness firsthand — as his father was ridiculed for being obtuse and unfeeling in the 1992 campaign and as his brother was pilloried in the last years of his administration and attacked in 2008 even though he was not on the ballot.