Peter Schorsch: Did Jeb Bush wait too long after his last election for a White House run?

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Jeb Bush’s announcement Tuesday that he is setting up an exploratory committee for the 2016 presidential race may be his most decisive move yet, but it was anything but a surprise.

However, since it has been more than 150 years since a successful candidate had a 14-year gap between his last election and winning the White House, there leaves one question:

Did Jeb Bush miss the boat on a trip to the White House?

The idea of another Bush presidency has been around for years, even as the former Florida governor’s last campaign – in 2002 – faded from the nation’s political memory.

Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics suggests that time might just be what the 61-year-old needs, putting distance between the presidency of brother George W. Bush and his own prospective campaign.

Nevertheless, few presidential candidates have waited so long and won.

Smart Politics found the 14 years between Jeb Bush’s last electoral victory and the 2016 presidential race is the longest interval for any successful presidential candidate in more than 150 years.

Ostermeier points out that the statistic excludes five individuals who never held elected office prior to assuming the presidency: George Washington, Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower.

Abraham Lincoln was the last president with a 14-year span between an electoral victory and the White House. Elected in 1846 to the U.S. House from Illinois, Lincoln served a single term, not winning another race until 1860 – the White House.

In 156 years, only two winning presidential candidates had eight years pass since their last successful electoral victory: Richard Nixon in 1968 — 12 years after becoming Eisenhower’s vice president in 1956; and Ronald Reagan in 1980, a decade after his second term re-election as governor of California.

The typical scenario for successful presidential candidates is waiting a single cycle or two after their last victory — an average gap of just over four years.

One of a dozen (or so) Republicans now considering the White House is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who was re-elected in November. If he does decide on a presidential bid and wins, he would be one of several successful attempts in such a short period of time.

Rutherford Hayes, in winning the presidency in 1876, was only one year away from a narrow win as Ohio governor, winning by 5,544 votes.

U.S. Rep. James Garfield, four years later, became president just 10 months after he was elected to the U.S. Senate by the Ohio Legislature in January 1880.

As for presidents who won state or federal races two years prior to a run for the White House, there have been five: Grover Cleveland (1884) two years after winning New York’s 1882 gubernatorial election; Woodrow Wilson (1912) after New Jersey’s 1910 gubernatorial election; John Kennedy (1960) after winning a second U.S. term in 1958; Bill Clinton (1992) after winning his fifth nonconsecutive term as Arkansas governor in 1990, and George W. Bush (2000) after his re-election as governor of Texas in 1998.

John Quincy Adams holds the record for the longest period between an electoral victory and a presidential win, with 21 years. Adams became a U.S. senator from Massachusetts in 1803, not winning another election until 1824, when he ran for president. He did hold other prominent positions in the interim, such as secretary of state and minister to England.

Smart Politics notes other extensive gaps: 15 years for William Harrison, who won the U.S. Senate in 1825; 16 years for Franklin Pierce, who took a U.S. Senate seat in 1836, and 13 years for James Buchanan, who won the U.S. Senate in 1843.

Peter Schorsch is a new media publisher and political consultant based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including Florida Politics and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Schorsch is also the publisher of INFLUENCE Magazine. For several years, Peter's blog was ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.


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