By Christopher Hooks, POLITICO
Can the heir to America’s oldest political dynasty save the GOP?
It’s an unseasonably warm midwinter day when a giant blue campaign bus arrives at a downscale strip mall in Pasadena, Texas, announcing the imminent return of a Republican dynasty. George Prescott Bush, the scion of arguably the most successful political family in American history, is launching a statewide bus tour that will introduce him to public prominence as he runs for commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, an important but generally obscure statewide position.
Bush is a lock: He faces no serious challengers, a fact attributable largely to the overwhelming advantages that accompany his name. Come November, the handsome, studious and half-Hispanic 37-year-old George P. will walk into public office, and a choir of observers will begin a round of intense speculation about what his ascension means for his party, his state and his country.
One might think the Bushes had acclimatized themselves to public recognition by now. Yet there’s Pierce Bush, another nephew of former President George W., fleece-jacketed and playful-seeming as he circles the giant bus emblazoned with a huge blowup of George P.’s face, taking pictures with his phone. “It’s not every day you see your cousin on one of these,” he tells me. He seems proud—and a bit incredulous.
Inside the strip mall, the small office of the San Jacinto Republican Women is packed. Older women stand around chatting about P.—his resemblance to different members of the Bush family and the well-being of Barbara Bush, George P.’s grandmother, who recently told the nation it should forget the dynasty thing and look outside of the “Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes” for a new generation of leaders. Her grandson seems not to have taken the message personally; asked about it at another campaign stop, George P. said that Barb was talking mostly about the presidency.
Bush has been campaigning with a calculatedly low profile for months, but this six-week, statewide bus tour, starting a month before early voting begins for the March primary, is something of a coming-out party. While land commissioner is an important post—the office oversees Texas’s oil-rich public lands—campaign events for the position usually have as much pomp and circumstance as a rotary club meeting in a dry county. Today, though, there’s a lot of enthusiasm, with even the manicurists at next-door Orchid Nails, who do not speak much English, recognizing the Bush name and coming over to have their picture taken with the candidate.
When George P. finally takes the microphone, he speaks for just over two minutes. It’s a speedy pitch, laden with slabs of red meat for the GOP faithful—proof that he has adopted the rhetorical style of the state’s Tea Party faction. “Our state’s values and our future is under attack, and this attack is being led by one man and one man only, and that’s Barack Obama. He wants to bring his liberal progressive agenda to the shores of Texas. And I think we sum up our message to him and Wendy Davis in just two words,” he says. “No way.” He goes on to speak about guns and the Second Amendment, partial-birth abortion and renewing the state’s pride in its petrochemical industry—none of which falls even remotely under the purview of the land commissioner.
No one seems to mind. Afterward, P. poses for pictures and makes the rounds in the shopping center. Then he departs for well-heeled fundraisers in downtown Houston.
When people talk about George P.’s potential, they’re talking about two things. First, there’s his name. For those keeping score: George P. is son of Jeb Bush, governor of Florida; nephew of George W. Bush, former president and governor of Texas; grandson of George H.W. Bush, former president; great-grandson of Prescott Sheldon Bush, senator from Connecticut; and great-great-grandson of Samuel Prescott Bush, the patriarch.
Spend time with George P.’s campaign, and it quickly becomes apparent how impossible it is to separate his identity from his family background. Even the campaign photographer working the bus tour, David Valdez, has been shooting Bushes for three decades.
Born in Houston in 1976, George P. grew up in Florida but returned to the Lone Star State to attend Rice University (and play on the baseball team there) during his uncle’s first term as governor. He then taught public school back in Florida and worked on W.’s presidential campaign before enrolling at the University of Texas School of Law. He practiced corporate law for a time and touts his experience with two investment firms, as well as his service in Afghanistan as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve.