There's a tendency in political circles to equate Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush when it comes to the 2016 presidential race. The thinking goes like this: Both are popular members of political dynasties with deep policy and political chops. And, if they both run for president, each has the inside track to be their party's nominee.
That is absolutely true for Clinton. It is not true for Bush.
CNN and the Opinion Research Corporation asked some 2016 horse-race questions in their latest poll, which was released Sunday.
Clinton led the Democratic field with 67 percent of the vote. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has said repeatedly that she isn't running, took 10 percent. Joe Biden, who, not for nothing, is the Vice President of the United States, received 8 percent.
Compare Clinton's massive edge with Bush's standing relative to the rest of the GOP presidential contenders in the CNN/ORC survey. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is at the front of the pack with 13 percent, followed by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul at 12 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan at 11 percent each. Bush is at 8 percent, tied with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in fifth place.
The Bush number in the CNN poll is even more unimpressive when you consider that 2016 horse-race polling at this point is mostly a measure of name identification. (No regular people are following the campaign and the candidates -- such as they exist -- at the moment.) Bush, whose brother and father have both been presidents of the United States, has the single most recognizable last name in the Republican Party at the moment. And he still sits in the middle of the pack.
But, the problems with the Bush-as-clear-frontrunner idea go deeper than just the horse race. Dig into the CNN/ORC poll and you see that, among self-identified conservatives, Bush gets just 7 percent -- behind six other candidates: Paul, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Ryan, Perry, Christie and Cruz.
And, it's not just first impressions -- as measured by the CNN/ORC poll -- either. Bush is on the wrong side of the party's base on two of the issues that stoke the most passion: immigration and Common Core.
On immigration, Bush has been publicly supportive of the bipartisan comprehensive reform bill; he called the legislation a "good effort." And he drew headlines around the country -- and fury in some parts of the conservative base -- when he argued that many people who enter the U.S. illegally do so out of an "act of love." Recently, Bush penned an editorial in the Wall Street Journal urging Republicans not to use the crisis of undocumented children entering the country as an "excuse" to not pass immigration reform.
The base of the Republican Party -- as fellow Floridian and potential 2016er Marco Rubio learned when he spearheaded the Senate bill -- is vehemently opposed to any legislation that offers a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Such efforts are widely described as "amnesty" by the GOP base.
On Common Core, a series of standardized national testing standards, Bush is again out of step with the GOP base. That group loathes Common Core as an example of federal government overreach -- a.k.a. Washington telling the states what to do. Bush, on the other hand, views it as a necessary step to get American kids competitive with the rest of the world. As the Miami Herald's Marc Caputo wrote in March:
Bush has repeatedly explained the standards, implemented and controlled by the states, are designed to make the United States more competitive with the rest of the world. He said those who oppose the standards support the “status quo,” oppose testing and are worried too much about children’s self-esteem.
Bush's stance on Common Core has already led to an effort in some conservative circles to oppose his possible presidential bid. As the Wall Street Journal's Beth Reinhard reported, protesters touting the hashtag "#stopjebnow" parked themselves outside of a Bush fundraiser for the Republican National Committee in Cincinnati last month.
As we learned in the 2012 presidential race, the Republican base demands/expects purity on the issues it most cares about -- ("Self deportation", anyone?) -- and punishes those who veer from party orthodoxy. On not one but two of the major issues, Bush stands not only apart from the party base but also from many of the people who he would likely face in the GOP presidential race. You can be sure Bush's opponents would bring up his stances on immigration and Common Core. A lot.
(Worth noting: Clinton is out of line with the Democratic base in term of her general positioning on economic inequality but, No. 1, there is no one willing to run who can really challenge her there and, No. 2, her numbers among liberals suggest she is plenty beloved to weather that criticism.)
All of the above is not to say that Bush couldn't be the Republican nominee for president. He could be. The establishment of the GOP -- major donors, the consultant class, the D.C. crowd -- all see him as the party's strongest candidate. That view would translate to successes in fundraising, staff recruitment and overall buzz.
But the idea that Bush would either a) clear the field or b) emerge as the un-questioned frontrunner -- ala Clinton -- simply isn't born out in the polling or the policy positions.
Bush is a strong potential candidate for president, but he is nowhere close to Clinton's status as a shoo-in if he runs.