Bush double-act dances to law and order tune: A former president's sons are in line for Governor in Texas and Florida, writes Patrick Cockburn from Washington

IN THE gubernatorial races for Florida and Texas, Jeb and George W Bush, sons of the former president, are poised to see if the old Republican formula which put their father in the White House still works. They are promising no new taxes and a tough stance on crime.

For George Bush Snr, now a resident of Houston, Texas, it would be gratifying to see his sons in the forefront as his party tries to bounce back from losing the White House in 1992.

The Democrats are already gearing up to protect a 56-44 majority in the Senate and their governorships (29 compared to the Republicans' 19). Defeats in Texas or Florida, which have the third and fourth largest electorates in the US, could set the tone for the 1996 presidential election.

In Texas there is no doubt that the eldest son, George W Bush, 47, will be the Republican candidate facing the powerful Democratic Senator, Ann Richards, in November. A clampdown on juvenile violence is central to his campaign. In Florida, Jeb Bush, 41, a Miami-based property developer, will face a tougher fight in the Republican primaries, despite being the front-runner. If nominated, however, he may have an easier campaign than his brother - against Lawton Chiles, the incumbent Democratic Governor. Forty per cent of Mr Chiles' own party says he should retire.

The platforms of George W and Jeb have much in common and revolve around imprisoning people. Tim Fleck, editor of the Houston Insider newsletter, says: 'It is becoming a joke. Every political consultant in the country has to produce a crime plan for his candidate.'

Jeb Bush's variation on this theme is for prisons to be funded by cutting back on welfare. In Dallas, George W Bush has a similar plan, though he proposes adding a mere 3,500 prison beds. 'I say we need to treat certain kids, as young as 14 years old, as adults, for serious, psychopathic crimes,' he said recently. 'I say build detention centres . . . places that will be tough places to go; places that won't be fun.'

Both Bushes have adopted the convenient thesis of the Republican right, that criminals are the children of single mothers, who do not marry because the welfare system discourages it.

Nobody knows how much mileage there is in this tough-on-crime competition. Many criminologists believe that Ronald Reagan and George Bush, by filling prisons with small-time drug offenders in the 1980s, helped ensure there was no room left for more violent criminals. Democrats are determined not to be outflanked on the right but voters traditionally look to Republicans on law and order issues.

The Bushes both benefit from name recognition. Each has political experience, and access to money, gained by participating in their father's campaigns. But this also makes them vulnerable to charges that, politically and financially, they were born with silver spoons in their mouths. George W, for instance, though nominally owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, in fact owns about 1 per cent of the stock and is considered a front-man for other interests.

Jeb Bush has a stronger political base. He always cultivated the Miami Cubans, a powerful lobby, and supported the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s. But other Florida Republicans accuse him of carpet bagging, by going for the state's highest office after only 11 years there. Campaigning is likely to get vicious. A consultant for Jeb Bush has already described his main Republican opponent as 'a boring, backbiting, mean little man who nobody is interested in'.

George Bush Snr will appear on behalf of his sons, though this may be a mixed blessing. Barbara Bush says: 'Having two of our sons decide to join us in political life, vindicates us for having done something we often thought hurt the children.' Their success could also help dim the memory of a third son, Neil Bush, fined dollars 50,000 for his role in the dollars 2.7bn collapse of the Denver-based Silverado savings and loan company in the late 1980s.

In the last year, the Republicans have won all six of the most important elections held, making Bill Clinton's victory in 1992 look increasingly lucky. The Democrats need to limit their losses in the mid-term elections. It will be doubly demoralising if any losses are inflicted by sons of President Bush.

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue