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Clinton vs. Bush all over again?

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:31PM

Incredible as it may seem to Americans weary of political battles, speculation already is running rampant over the 2016 presidential election. Perhaps as incredible is the possibility the presidential balloting a decade and a half into the 21st century could turn out to be a last hurrah of 20th century politics — a Clinton vs. Bush contest.

Front-runners would be the wrong word to describe Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Jeb Bush, but the political world and other potential 2016 contenders are watching and waiting to see what decisions these two big name stars with first-class credentials and platinum cards with big-money contributors make about the race.

Their assets are obvious. Clinton is the nation’s most prominent and successful woman politician — a former senator who impressed Republicans as well as Democrats with her work ethic, a former presidential candidate who came oh-so-close to the nomination in 2008 and a secretary of state whose frenetic pace wracked up trips to 112 countries, more than any previous occupant of the job. She is an unapologetic liberal mated to a pragmatism that would remind political-wars-weary voters of the centralism that produced results in the 1990s presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton.

Jeb Bush is an unabashed conservative, but probably more in the mode of his centrist father, former President George H.W. Bush, than in the war presidency of his brother, George W. Bush. As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush cut taxes and advocated for conservative principles like school choice and teacher standards. What makes him especially appealing to Republicans looking to find their way in the changing demographics of America is that he speaks Spanish, is married to a Mexican-American woman and advocates reasonable immigration reform.

However attractive the assets of Clinton and Bush may be, there’s another side to the ledger. Not the least of them would be that a Clinton-Bush battle raises the issue of dynastic democracy — not quite an oxymoron term but perhaps close. Americans might well wonder is this the best a republic of 313 million people can do — a couple of candidates from families that already have had their shot at governing the country?

Clinton would be 69 by Election Day 2016, not old by today’s standards but likely an issue nevertheless. While her tenure at the State Department is widely praised, a cloud hovers over it, at least for the moment. That’s Benghazi and the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans by terrorists. Ambassador Chris Stevens left a journal agonizing about safety, and the record is clear that State rejected requests to bolster security in Libya. Clinton has had little to say on the matter but she’s scheduled to answer questions before Congress later this month.

Bush, who’ll be 63 in 2016, carries the baggage of his name, given his brother’s legacy of an unpopular war and a tanking economy. Polling in the last election showed most Americans still blame George W. Bush for the fiscal crisis, however unfair that may be.

Then there’s the crop of next-generation candidates in both parties — Democrats Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley, and Republicans Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jendal and Susana Martinez — eager to get their turn at grabbing the brass ring. Would they be willing to sit on the sidelines as Clinton and Bush go for a last hurrah of 20th century politics?

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