Jeb Bush, is both figuratively and literally behind his brother — former president George W. Bush.
Not only is Jeb seven years younger, but his loss in 1994 to Lawton Chiles for the Florida governorship put him behind in the road to the White House.
Jeb was supposed to win in Florida, and be a connection with their father’s political legacy, writes author Bill Minutaglio in POLITICO.
In the time since, George W. has done little to help Jeb’s political career, which will get a major boost as he becomes a serious GOP contender for the 2016 presidential race. But much of the chatter centers around if, as a moderate Republican, who has taken dissenting positions on education and immigration, he can energize the GOP base.
Competition between the two Bushes has been fierce, ever since their youthful days in Texas, where the older George W. was looked up to by Jeb; Neil, the fourth child, would surface as “Mr. Perfect.”
As the brothers became more political, Jeb wound the least amount of baggage—George W. faced run-ins with police in Connecticut and Maine, and his stint in the Texas National Guard; Neil was connected to the Silverado Savings and Loan, part of a billion-dollar scandal.
Age is another factor. As the oldest, George W. was the first to be part of the delegation for George H. W. on the campaign trail in the 80s and 90s, not as a deep calling for politics, but out of a sense of familial responsibility. Jeb, on the other hand, was much more interested in public affairs, Minutaglio writes.
Now, as the push toward 2016 intensifies, Jeb face voters and pundits who may have lingering hangover from the George W. Bush years — leaving office as one of history’s most unpopular American presidents — and are likely to put Jeb in a similar category.
If elected, the Bushes will be the first brothers serving as presidents, raising lingering questions over how much alike the two will be, especially on issues such as the economy. There could also be a degree of “guilt by association.”
The relationship between the two have always been somewhat strained; after Jeb’s re-election to the Florida governorship, he could not attend W’s second inauguration. His reason was the difficulty in setting up his own administration.
Both Jeb and George W. have struggled to move out of the family shadow; George W. worked to distance himself from his father’s legacy as “anemic” president seen as overly cautious. It wasn’t until his second term he began to embrace the deliberative style of George H.W.
Jeb also sought to break away from his family, moving to Florida after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin, where he married a woman from Mexico and made his fortune in real estate.
As for his relationship with his father, Jeb has been also cautious during his deliberations over the 2016 presidential run. In 2000, after John McCain’s bruising win in the New Hampshire primary, George H.W. Bush referred to his “boy,” making the Bush children seem like children. After that, the old man was rarely seen on the campaign trail.
For Jeb, it brings a dilemma. Minutaglio asks how heavily he will rely on his father and brother in 2016— in both the campaign and the White House. Will he be more compromising, like his father was, or more headstrong, as the first term of his brother?
“I learned a while back my estimation of my father is so powerful that if I felt like I had to follow in his footsteps and follow a path that he has set for me, I would fail. I came to grips with that a while back,” Jeb Bush told Minutaglio in 1999 during research for First Son: George W. Bush & the Bush Family Dynasty.
“A lot of people who have fathers like this, or moms, who have lived such extraordinary lives, feel a sense that they have failed because they haven’t reached the same level of just being a human being as their predecessor—and it creates all sorts of pathologies.”