Conventional wisdom goes like this: Americans are sick of dynastic politics. And, that fact means that Jeb BUSH and Hillary CLINTON are going to face a series of challenges because of their last names that wouldn't be a problem if it was Jeb Jones and Hillary Smith running for office.
To which I say: Not really.
Yes, it's easy to conclude that the broad disdain the public expresses toward dynasties is a major hurdle for both Jeb and Hillary. But, to my mind, people saying that political dynasties aren't a good thing for the country is kind of like people saying they think there's too much money in politics. Sure. But is it something that impacts actual votes? In both cases I would say no.
Look at recent numbers from an NBC-Wall Street Journal national poll. When asked whether they would be more or less favorable to a candidate who didn't have the last name "Bush" or "Clinton", a majority -- 51 percent said it would make no difference. One in five (22 percent) said it would make them much more favorable toward a candidate while 17 percent said it would make them somewhat more favorable.
What I would have loved is a follow-up question that went something like this: Regardless of whether you feel more or less favorable toward a candidate not named "Bush" or "Clinton" does a candidate's last name matter to how you will vote? My guess -- an educated one -- is that less than 39 percent of people would have said it matters. And, even among those who said it mattered, most of them when they go to vote won't have the idea of rejecting American political dynasties on their minds. They might not love the idea of another Bush or a Clinton but they just won't, ultimately, vote on it.
And, even if you accept the idea that there is some percentage of people who won't vote for a Bush or a Clinton because they are a Bush or Clinton, the advantages of having a famous last name far outweighs the negatives.
First, your name is universally known (or close to it) before you run one campaign commercial or appear at one event. While not every percentage point of that name identification is to the good, the millions (and millions) it costs a candidate -- like, say, Scott Walker or Marco Rubio -- to simply get as known as Bush will be on the first day of his candidacy is significant. Ditto Clinton on the Democratic side. One of the less-told stories of the lack of a Democratic primary challenger against her is that the financial lift of getting known enough to have a chance of beating Clinton is massive and not doable for anyone currently in the field.
Then there is the fundraising edge. Both Bush and Clinton have fully formed or, at a minimum, frameworks of national fundraising operations that are the envy of everyone else in the field. Jeb Bush is already telling donors to avoid giving more than $1 million to his super PAC in this first six month fundraising window to avoid the perception that only the ultra-rich have a seat at his table. Do you think any other candidate will have that "problem"? The answer is no. Bush's fundraising is his great advantage in this race and that edge is almost entirely born of his last name.
One other example to make this point: Jeb will fundraise with former president (and his brother) George W. Bush in Dallas today. The ask is a minimum $100,000 contribution per couple to Jeb's Right To Rise super PAC. Will Jeb's fundraising with his brother serve as a talking point for some -- including some Republicans -- that Jeb is too close to his brother and all of the negative sentiment in the country still directed at the 43rd president? Sure. Would any of the other GOP candidates kill for the chance to have a former Republican president appear at a fundraiser for their super PAC that will raise at least $100,000 for every two people in attendance? Um, yes.
Beyond the obvious primary advantages, is the fact that if Bush and Clinton -- the nominal frontrunners for their respective parties -- wind up as the nominees, the "political dynasty" argument will be made entirely moot. It would be impossible for a Bush or a Clinton to credibly attack a Bush or Clinton as "too dynastic" to be elected.
How the negative side of dynastic politics might come into play is in a general election if someone other than Bush winds up as the Republican nominee. While I tend to think Clinton's last name still isn't as problematic as many people might think, I do believe that it could be used as a talking point in a broader argument that Clinton represents, broadly speaking, the past while, say, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker represent the future. That same NBC-WSJ poll I cited above shows that a majority (51 percent) of people said Clinton would represent "a return to the policies of the past" if elected while 44 percent said she would symbolize "new ideas and a vision for the future." Clinton's last name coupled with her age -- she'd be 69 on election day 2016 -- and the length of the time she has spent in the national political spotlight could combine to make a compelling argument for Rubio, for example.
But all of that is more than a year away. Until then -- and probably even then -- having a famous last name is a very good thing. Don't believe the hype that it's not.