George Prescott Bush.
Ring a bell?
It should, and if it doesn’t, it soon will. George P. Bush, 37, is a great-grandson of a late U.S. senator from Connecticut; a grandson and nephew of former U.S. presidents; and the eldest son of ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who just may run for president himself in 2016.
On Tuesday, George P., referred to by some as the “Hispanic George Bush” because of his mother’s Mexican heritage, will take his generation’s first crack at the family business when he runs in a statewide Republican primary for Texas land commissioner.
He’s expected to win easily against David Watts, a poorly funded Tea Party candidate, and will very likely cruise by Democrat John Cook, the former mayor of El Paso, in November for the politically powerful seat. (Current Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst is a former occupant of the office, which, among its duties, manages oil and gas income from state-owned land.)
Texas, after all, is where Bush family roots and political connections run deep, and where his uncle George W. was governor, and his Massachusetts-born granddad, George H.W., made his oil money. Both former presidents retired to Texas.
George P.’s Hispanic heritage has long been touted as one of his most attractive political traits for a GOP desperate to make inroads in the nation’s fastest-growing demographic. Texas in six years is expected to have a population that’s majority Hispanic.
What remains a mystery, however, is just how the political newbie will fit into the narrative of one of the nation’s most storied Republican family dynasties.
An ‘Adaptable’ Family
To attempt an answer, we turned to conservative Peter Schweizer, who wrote one of the definitive profiles of the Bush family, the 2004 book The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty. And to Bill Minutaglio, journalist, University of Texas professor and author of the 1999 book First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family Dynasty.
Schweizer says the political traditions of some American dynasties are easier to predict than others: You pretty much know what kind of a candidate you’ll get if his or her last name is Kennedy, he says, but the Bush politicians are less predictable.
“They’re very adaptable,” he says, “very in tune with the political temperature.”
“Prescott was a centrist. George H.W. was slightly right of center, and was never comfortable with the conservative movement that came with Goldwater, and George W. fits that type as well,” Schweizer says.
He sees Jeb Bush as more actively embracing the conservative movement, and his son likely steering a similar course.
“George P. is not going to feel like he has to carry a torch in a personal way,” Schweizer says. “But my sense is that he’s probably going to run and govern as a pretty conservative candidate.”
“It would not surprise me at all for George P. Bush to strike an alliance with the Tea Party, even if they criticize his uncle and grandfather,” he says.
Many have traced the rise of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party to anger over the expansion of government and spending during George W. Bush’s administration.
The Family Business
Minutaglio characterizes George P. as having “long been on a path to take his turn in what really is the family ‘business’ — the business of politics.”
He’s “charismatic, symbolic of the Bush’s family wish to be seen as a diverse and all-inclusive American family,” he says.
Given his knowledge of the Bushes, Minutaglio says he sees an extraordinary degree of calculation and planning put into their political operations.
“You can rest assured that great forces are being brought to bear to support George P.,” he says, noting that the Bushes have “one of the most powerful political Rolodexes in American history.”
“In other words, he is not running alone. He is running with the full support, muscle, of the inherited Bush dynasty,” he says.
George P. has touted himself as part of the “next generation of Texas leaders” and is co-founder of the Hispanic Republicans of Texas political action committee. He’s conservative on social issues, including abortion, and counts among his endorsements those from the Texas Alliance for Life, as well as from real estate agents, oil and gas producers. and cattle feeders and ranchers.
He has highlighted his early support for Texas Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz, considered the de facto leader of the state party, and has tried to balance the upside/downside of the Bush family name.
But make no mistake, Schweizer and others say, being a Bush is an incalculable advantage in Texas, where Republicans haven’t lost a statewide race in two decades. The Bushes can draw on an enormous political machine, and George P. has raked in more than $3 million for his first political race.
Signs of how he will develop politically are there, if incipient. If the party continues its conservative turn, George P. is likely to be right there with it. A win on Tuesday and in November could set him up for a run for governor, seen by Schweizer as a strong launching pad for perhaps yet another Bush White House run.
“The family has joked — 41, 43 and 47,” he says, referring to the first two Bush presidents, and George P. as the potential 47th. “It’s a way of getting the competitive juices going, and that’s an important dynamic in this family.”