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
i100'Geography can be tough'
newsVideo targets undecided voters
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Trade Desk FIX Analyst - (FIX, SQL, Equities, Support)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + excellent benefits: Harrington Starr: An award-win...

DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer - (Linux, Shell, Bash)DevOps Eng...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis