Fight of the Century: Media Sets Stage for Bush v. Clinton II

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The headliners for the 2016 presidential campaign are likely to be Bush v. Clinton again. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have been rumored to be the nominees for months, nay years, prior to their official announcements.

With obvious parallels to the 1992 election, these two political dynasties have come a long way since the early 90s.

For those who remember 1992’s presidential match-up between Bill and Bush Sr., the most apparent sign is that it is not 1992 anymore. Unfortunately, as their campaigns gear up for primary season, campaign finance and immigration reforms are not on the list of parallels.

Campaign finance was a reason why Jeb Bush did not announce earlier than he did. According to the FEC, an exploratory committee to “test the waters” is, by definition, not an official campaign. The result made for a record-breaking shadow fundraising drive.

By delaying his announcement, the former governor was allowed to loosely raise funds for his PAC, Right to Rise, without raising eyebrows at the FEC. While Jeb was an unofficial candidate, he was legally allowed to coordinate with the group.

That term, “coordinate,” is a reference to the Citizens United Supreme Court case. The new rule of thumb since then is that as long as there is no coordination between the super PAC and the candidate, there should be no limit to how much the group can raise and spend in support of the candidate.

On Monday, Bush will announce the official launch of his campaign, which means he will no longer be able to raise funds for his PAC. That is not to say the group will not be adding to its record-breaking haul, but the strings are cut, so to speak, between the super PAC and the candidate.

Hillary is not without campaign finance controversy, either. Super PACs do not exclusively favor candidates from one party over another — just look at Ready For Hillary. Also, while Bush is expecting multiple $1 million checks from super wealthy donors like the Koch brothers, Clinton is aided by the connections of her family’s global foundation.

Aside from campaign finance, the electorate has dramatically changed since 1992.

The Democratic-favored electoral map, which Obama crafted in both his victories, makes it difficult for a tea party-favored Republican to stand a chance. Fortunately for Jeb Bush, he has a more centrist ideology that can attract more independent voters, particularly among Latinos.

According to the University of California, Santa Barbara’s The American Presidency Project, during Bill Clinton’s victory in ’92, George H.W. Bush only won Texas by 3.5 percentage points. The average margin of victory for a GOP candidate since Clinton left the White House has been over 18 points. Ross Perot, a Texan, was on the ballot in 1992 and Bush won it with a plurality, but Latinos will make Texas more competitive this time.

Given the growth of this segment of the population, the media continues to highlight the Latino vote because it will no doubt play a larger role in upcoming elections. Jeb Bush is arguably the GOP’s best chance of making that a competitive voting bloc.

Hillary Clinton could begin making inroads in the Lone Star State by tapping former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro as VP, but that is not a sure thing and will not be confirmed one way or the other until many months down the road.

Among the parallels between then and now are the debates over taxes, the debt and deficit, and free trade. These cyclical issues don’t stay away for long.

In the early 1990s, going against his ’88 campaign promise, President Bush was forced to raise taxes to deal with the budget deficit. The deficit is still a problem, but it is much larger now even after some good years under Clinton.

Free trade was favored by Republicans, including Bush, when NAFTA was in the process of getting through Congress. President Clinton may have signed the trade agreement, but it garnered more GOP votes than Democratic ones.

Now the controversy is over the Trans-Pacific Partnership. While Jeb Bush supports it, Hillary has mostly taken a wait-and-see approach. She recently came out in support of Democratic resistance in the House, which prevented trade promotion authority from being approved in the lower chamber — a major blow to President Obama. However, she still hasn’t taken a firm position on the trade agreement itself.

International treaties take years to finalize so this may still be an issue past 2016.

As of the most recent polls, Hillary Clinton has an edge over not just Jeb, but all other major GOP contenders. There is a long wait before the Iowa Caucus, however, and the primaries are going to be grueling no matter how favored Hillary or Jeb become.