Over the weekend, former President George W. Bush told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he wants his younger brother, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, to run for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, and while presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would be “formidable,” he is of the firm belief that Jeb would “absolutely” beat the former Secretary of State in a head-to-head matchup. “He knows I want him to run. If I need to reiterate it, I will: Run, Jeb. I think he’d be a great president.”
It should be noted at this point that neither Clinton or Bush have said whether of not they plan to run for President of the United States. Clinton has said she will announce her decision sometime in early 2015, while Bush has set no timetable for his own decision. But Dubya’s statements made me wonder, Would Jeb Bush perform well in a national contest against Clinton? The latest polling data shows Clinton garnering 47% in a hypothetical contest against Bush, who draws 33%.
However, the real test of any candidate’s strengths or weaknesses when pitted against a challenger lies in the thoughts and opinions of the people who vote. With this in mind, I decided to spend a recent lunch hour in downtown Atlanta asking random people at the Midtown MARTA subway station who they thought would prevail in a Hillary vs. Jeb showdown. The only information I asked them to provide was their first name, their age, their party affiliation, and the kind of work they do. Here are a few of the responses I received over the course of an hour on a chilly, windy Atlanta afternoon.
Claire, 35, Independent, Secretary: “I don’t think there’s any possible way for anyone to beat Clinton if she runs. She almost got the nomination (in 2008) and has the experience you need to be President. Who do the Republicans have? Another Bush? That doesn’t sound very good to me. I wouldn’t vote for Jeb Bush.”
Christian, 23, Democrat, Graphic Artist: “Bush has no chance of beating Hillary. Who is gonna vote for Bush? Old rich people? Not nearly as many of them as there are young, minorities, women, etc. I’m not even sure Bush would carry Florida. He has no chance at all.”
Phillip, 54, Republican, Insurance Underwriter: “I liked the first (President) Bush, but don’t know much about Jeb. Would he beat Hillary? Well, maybe in this state, but nationally…I doubt it. She would be able to get all the electoral votes she needs in the big states like New York and California. He might give her a good race, but I doubt he could win against her.”
Samantha, 28, Independent, Realtor: “No, he can’t beat her. No one can beat her if she runs. End of story.”
Terrence, 44, Democrat, Landscaper: “Bush beat Hillary? Nope. Never happen in a million years. If she puts her name out and says she wants it, it’s hers. Ain’t nobody gonna be more qualified than her.”
Vernice, 19, Independent, College Student: “The Republicans are probably never gonna win another national election. If I had a choice between Clinton and Bush, I’d pick Clinton in a second. I wouldn’t even have to think about it.”
Victor, 62, Republican, Retired Military: “He might be able to beat her, but I kinda doubt it. I don’t like her, but she is a sharp lady. People don’t know Jeb Bush. Maybe he could pull an upset, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.”
So, based on my completely unscientific survey of commuters on MARTA, I’d say it looks like Jeb Bush would be well-advised to think long and hard about any decision to pursue the 2016 election. The great thing about family, it seems, is that they support you even when others don’t. So Jeb, you can count on your big brother’s support and vote, but that may not be enough to get you to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.