August 10th, 2009
12:37 PM ET
5 years ago

Political family names bring shame as well as fame

George and Jeb Bush are the only sons of a president to make it to the governor's mansion.
George and Jeb Bush are the only sons of a president to make it to the governor's mansion.

(CNN) - For some families, like the Kennedys, the Bushes and the Roosevelts, politics runs in the blood. But as history shows, coming from a powerful political family doesn't mean a free ride to the top.

"It does help, and it hurts. It's a two-edged sword," said Doug Wead, a presidential historian and former adviser to President George H.W. Bush. "It initially helps the candidate with name recognition and more importantly with fundraising ... but many vote against the child as well."

The children of political families inherit a treasure chest of contacts, campaign workers and often endorsements, but the benefits have their limits.

Only two presidential sons have followed their fathers to the White House (John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush), and just one presidential family - the Bushes - has sent sons to the governor's mansion (Jeb Bush in Florida and George Bush in Texas).

"I conclude that a brand name - a famous family name - is typically worth one step up on the political ladder," said Stephen Hess, a senior fellow emeritus in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, who has researched and written about political dynasties dating back to colonial times. "They get one step up - and they are on their own."

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Filed under: Jeb Bush • President George W. Bush • Ron Paul • Ted Kennedy
soundoff (63 Responses)
  1. annie s

    Jeb Bush was one of the architects, along with Cheney & Rumsfeld, of the neo-con movement that decided to go to war in Iraq long before George W. became President (urging President Clinton to do so way back in 1997) and that believed world domination by America was our right. He is to be feared.

    August 10, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  2. Dave

    Jeb Bush has been a wonderful Governor of Florida and hope he runs for the Senate one day. He is a good man and we need those types of leaders in the Senate

    August 10, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  3. Shots Changed History

    If they were not killing Kennedy's, the Kennedy family would have a more larger foothold on history. Like two brothers being President.

    August 10, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  4. RRR

    As we have seen in quite a few states both here and far north....it appears ANYONE can be elected governor!

    Thank goodness Bush and the era of hiding spending from congress, hiding intelligence programs from congress, in fact hiding most things from congress are also gone! Now we have so much debate in the public eye the public does not know how to react to all of it!

    August 10, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  5. We Have "Death Panels". They're Called Insurance Company Bureaucrats

    Palin says she want the media "to stop making things up"
    Yet she makes up "death panels"

    She has become a master of the fine art of right wing hypocrisy

    August 10, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  6. Faith

    The person who wrote this has never heard of President Taft and his descendants. They have a saying in Ohio, if a rock had the name Taft it could get elected.

    August 10, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  7. Chris ~ Albany, NY

    No more BUSH's now and for forever!!!!

    August 10, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  8. Big Ed

    Now there's a pair! Are they filming the second sequel to "Dumb and Dumber"? I heard it's called "As Dumb As Can Be and Still Walk Erect"!

    August 10, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  9. Simmy

    CNN is so transparent.......Martinez resigns.......A Seat will be open once he leaves......Republicans are desperate for relevance......They have NOthing left but Palin and 'another Bush'.......Now appears an article about Jeb Bush........If Crist appoints him, he (Crist) deserves to lose........The next transparency will be Liz Cheney coming out of the (wannabe closet) to run for something......Keep watching.......

    August 10, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  10. Boston Irish

    I'd much rather be a member of the Bush family than be a Kennedy. There is so much more to be proud of.

    August 10, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  11. midwest liberal

    why is this article considered news?

    August 10, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  12. Jeff Brown

    Two turds carved from the same dung heap!

    August 10, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I would hope that Americans vote by what the person campaigns on and not about the family history. Saying that you can get something done solely base on the family history is stupid and dangerous. If the family is suddenly found to be corrupt and you are the one member of the family that is honest, you are suddenly a suspect like it or not.

    August 10, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
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