Only a few months ago, CNN touted a poll showing George W. Bush's popularity exceeded Barack Obama's. But you wouldn't know that on February 20, 2016, as Hillary Clinton engineered a great comeback by linking herself to Obama, while Jeb's campaign flopped as he joined himself at his brother's hip. Only Hillary is still in the race now.
Though Jeb Bush didn't always campaign next to George W. Bush, the former president was never far from his brother during the campaign. One of Bush's campaign spokesmen, who once worked for ex-House Speaker John Boehner, touted Dubbya's approval rating among Republicans at 77 percent. "He kept us safe," Jeb would often say when asked about his brother, or terrorism, at debates.
If that's true, then either: (a) Jeb Bush is the worst candidate in the history of American elections, or (b) George W. Bush's numbers weren't so great. It's probably some of both. That's because Jeb got nowhere near 77 percent in state. He was lucky to get more than 10 percent, if he ever did. Those "Miss Me?" signs with Dubbya's face really aren't a big seller for someone who left office with a 22 percent approval rating, still better than Jeb's numbers in the primary.
These days, President George W. Bush draws interesting art, goes to Selma, Alabama for a civil rights march and helps Bill Clinton raise money for good causes. His numbers haven't been so bad, because he's not really involved in government. However, when push comes to shove, even Republicans clearly cringe at the thought of another Bush in the White House.
Regardless of whether or not you like George W. Bush, "He kept us safe," is a factually incorrect statement. Whether you completely blame Bush for 9/11, the Hurricane Katrina, the intelligence findings and the invasion of Iraq, it clearly was anything but a safe eight years. Donald Trump simply reminded GOP voters what the rest us knew, and was unafraid to publicly point out each of George W. Bush's significant errors. And Jeb subsequently suspended his campaign.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton found herself reeling from a big loss in New Hampshire after the narrowest of victories in Iowa. At the next debate, with Sanders having all the momentum, Hillary Clinton pointed out her support for Barack Obama, and how her opponent was less than supportive of the president.
Sanders backpedaled, angrily denying the charges. But his written foreword of Bill Press' book critical of Barack Obama, and revelations that he was open to a primary competitor to Obama in 2012 undermined his argument. Saying that Hillary Clinton opposed Obama in 2008 was an ineffective response, given her loyal service to the president as Secretary of State. Now she appears to have pulled out another win in a caucus, a format where she doesn't thrive, in another neutral region. Sanders can only point to a win in a state next to his home state.
A second look at the June 2015 CNN poll reveals that Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush had the highest approval ratings (at 64 percent), along with Jimmy Carter (56 percent approval), and George W. Bush sporting the lowest approval rating of a living ex-president (52 percent). Jeb's embrace of his brother cost him dearly, while Hillary's support of Obama helped her campaign recover. Such a move will likely demonstrate Democratic unity, while it's back to the drawing board, or painting easel, for ex-President George W. Bush.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.