The GOP’s legacy underdog

Barbara Bush was right when she pooh-poohed son Jeb’s interest in running for the White House in 2016. Forget political dynasties — Bushes, Kennedys and, yes, Clintons — the former first lady told NBC last year. “We’ve had enough Bushes.” She also said: “There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever.”

Listen to your mother, Jeb.

Heed her words well, Hillary.

My sweetest dream for 2016 would be for a bipartisan pact: that 2016 will not be a sequel to the 1992 Bush-Clinton faceoff. Is it a deal, Dems? I won’t vote for Bush if you won’t vote for the better half of the 1992 Democratic pick.

Jeb Bush fans — call them Jebbies — argue that his resume is exactly what the GOP needs. Even though Barack Obama won their state twice, Floridians love their former governor. His wife is Latina. He speaks Spanish at home. He’s not a knee-jerk Republican. He gets things done. He supports Common Core State Standards. He could draw new eyeballs to the Grand Old Party.

I see the appeal. I might even want to vote for him by 2016, especially if the field is anything like the 2012 cluster of shameless preeners in the Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman mold.

But it would be a mistake to vote for this Bush, because like Mitt Romney, he cannot win a general election. Period. Both guys look great on paper, but when voters look at either former governor, they can’t get past the perception that they are gazing at a son of privilege and a creature of the establishment. Worse, both former governors think they’re underdogs, not sons of privilege and creatures of the establishment.

Then there’s his Hamlet shtick: To run or not to run? Bush told Fox News’ Shannon Bream that he’s not sure he wants to run unless he can do so “with a hopeful, optimistic message” and without watching his rhetoric get sucked into “the vortex of the mud fight.” (That’s another plus. He uses words such as “vortex.”)

Bush also said he wants to campaign “joyfully” and free of the “convention of the politics of the here and now.” Here’s the headline: Bush not sure GOP is good enough for him.

This bothers me: Bush says he has qualms about slumming it in the muddy GOP primary, yet somehow the Sunshine Stater didn’t think it would dirty his hands to fly to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, the GOP mega-donor whose millions kept Gingrich in the endless 2012 primary.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful to all those East Coast Democrats who tell me Bush is The Republican whom primary voters would pick, if only — big sigh — they knew what is best for them. Really.

I realize that conservatives should welcome Bush’s assertion that breaking U.S. immigration law is not a felony but an “act of love.” It’s touching, when you think about it, how our betters in the Beltway want to shower the GOP with endless acts of love.

Methinks they’re trying to make up for the sick twist of fate in 1994 that robbed Jeb of victory in his first gubernatorial bid when his less serious politician brother George won Texas. With that edge, the cockier Bush won the Oval Office in 2000. For the chattering class locked in its own way-back machine, Jeb will always be the Bush who got away.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.

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