Bush-Clinton Fatigue

Chuck Todd reports that “a whopping 74% [of the respondents to the latest NBC-WSJ poll] say that at least 24 straight years of Bushes and Clintons in the White House won’t be much of a consideration when they vote.”

Jonathan Singer is surprised:

I have tended to believe that voters would be reluctant to elect (and perhaps even nominate) Hillary Clinton in 2008 at least in part because of the fact that she is a legatee candidate, following in the footsteps of her husband (particularly given the failure of the most recent legatee presidency, that of George W. Bush). But also, the argument that a country run by legatees is one not far off from a country run by nobility (or is moving in that direction, in effect if not in law) seemed to hold water to me.

Yet apparently, this argument is not swaying too many voters. Certainly, the fact that perhaps as much of a quarter of the electorate has a sufficient level of Bush-Clinton fatigue to hold it against Hillary Clinton this cycle is meaningful — perhaps so much so that it could sway the election in one way or another (I can’t really say until I see the actual data from the poll, and probably even the internals of the poll, if possible). Nevertheless, for the vast majority of the American public, this simply does not appear to be a salient issue.

My reaction is almost exactly opposite Singer’s. The notion that people from famous political families have a leg up in the name recognition battle isn’t particularly troubling to me; certainly, no more so than the fact that movie stars and other pop culture celebrities seem to gain a similar advantage. I’m particularly untroubled about this at the presidential level, where voters certainly know for whom they’re voting; it’s more problematic at the state and local levels, where people often vote solely on the basis of name recognition.

At the same time, to say that, “a whopping 74% say [X] won’t be much of a consideration when they vote” is to bury one’s lead. The fact that 26 percent say it will be a significant consideration is rather staggering, particularly considering that only one candidate currently in the race would be effected. One wonders if this is already factored into Clinton’s current poll numbers?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. yetanotherjohn says:

    I suspect that the left has less of an issue with Hillary being a legatee and the right would have less of an issue with Jeb being a legatee (not to say some on other side wouldn’t have some problems). So lets see the internals of the poll to see if it is just GOPers who have a problem with Hillary or if the middle/left are a significant part of that 26%.

  2. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    I question your insistence that this Bush administration is a failure in any sense of the term. What is perceived by the press and MSM is not fact. The economy is flying, the unemployment rate is very low. We have not been attacked by al Qaeda in 6 years and we are fighting radical Islam somewhere besides here. Our losses in the war in Iraq are historically low and the only way the average American knows we are at war is by the constant lies by the left that we are losing the effort. I don’t know what you expect of a President, but I assure you, George W. Bush has done more to do what he said he would do than the guy that came before him and quite probably a lot more than the person who follows him. His judicial appointments alone deserve praise. If there is failure, it is on the part of people who cannot see the forest for the trees.

  3. brainy435 says:

    I don’t think being a legatee would be too much of an plus during presidential voting. There’s a lot of partisan voting and voting based on issues rather than candidates.

    The place where being a legatee is VERY useful is in primaries. Hillary would be as serious a candidate as Kucinich if she were not Mrs. Bill Clinton. Hell, she wouldn’t even have a political career.

  4. ditto says:

    The other issue about Hillary being a legatee was that she also took a very active political role in government. Her activities were probably more typical for a V.P. than First Lady.

  5. They should have also asked how folks would feel about 28 years of Bush-Clinton, or 32, or 200. I will start to worry a lot more if there is ever am announcement of an arranged marraige between a Clinton and a Bush to consolidate their family ties.

  6. Rick DeMent says:

    The place where being a legatee is VERY useful is in primaries. Hillary would be as serious a candidate as Kucinich if she were not Mrs. Bill Clinton. Hell, she wouldn’t even have a political career.

    True dat, but by the same token GW Bush wouldn’t have been much of anything if he were not the son of GHW Bush so ….