If 2016 brings a Hillary Clinton-Jeb Bush contest (a bigger “if” for me than for many of my colleagues, but still…), the dynamics will be fascinating. Neither will go unchallenged for the party nomination, but both might avoid having to strain to become the standard bearer, fluently brandishing the elements required to win: money, fame, access to the media, compelling personal/political narratives, policy chops, top-shelf staffing, support from both elites and the grassroots, and the experience borne from a professional lifetime at the very highest levels of American politics.
Although both would face nomination competitors, there is a very solid chance Jeb and Hillary could emerge largely unscathed as general election candidates, and not forced to the extremes of their respective parties. They would both almost certainly follow the Bill Clinton-George W. Bush model, running in the ideological center throughout the entire race, with announcement speeches mirroring their convention acceptance speeches. In fact, on some issues, Jeb Bush might actually turn out to be more moderate than Hillary Clinton, and Clinton more conservative than Bush.
No doubt, derisive or buoyant talk of dynasties and re-runs, and winks about Chelsea and George P. would abound. But the country would end up with a choice between two serious, accomplished people who are in public life for the right reasons, primed to give the nation the debate it deserves and needs in these troubled times.
Both Clinton and Bush will get a lot of encouragement to run in the next year, including from family members on both sides. Jeb Bush’s comments this week suggesting an openness to making the race (a significant change for the former governor) have turned a lot of heads, arched a lot of brows, and fluttered a lot of GOP hearts. As for all the other Democratic and Republican up-and-coming, fire-in-the-belly hopefuls, they are now forced to sit on their hands. Until Clinton and the Bush make their decisions, the fields are effectively frozen.