A Bush, a Cheney, and a Carter will be on the ballot next year, but this is no ’80s flashback or stroll down memory lane.
In the 2014 midterm races, the children and grandchildren of former presidents and a vice president are all trying to make their own political names.
The latest addition to a growing list is Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who announced Thursday he’s running for governor of Georgia. The Democratic state senator will try to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
Meanwhile, Liz Cheney – the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney – is challenging incumbent Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) in the Cowboy State’s GOP primary.
And while it’s not a federal race, George P. Bush – the grandson of one president (George H.W. Bush), the nephew of another (George W. Bush), and the son of a former governor (Jeb Bush) – is running for land commissioner in Texas.
They’re not the only ones whose surnames could help them in tough political campaigns. Three of the most vulnerable Democratic senators running for re-election next year – Mark Begich in Alaska, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Mark Pryor in Arkansas – all hail from famous political families in their states.
In West Virginia, moreover, Republicans are hoping for a similar advantage with Rep. Shelley Moore Capito – the daughter of former Gov. Arch Moore – as their likely nominee in the Senate race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
Then there’s Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who is making her first foray into politics after a working with several volunteer organizations. Like Carter, she has an uphill fight in the conservative Peach State, but with Republicans facing a divisive primary, Democrats smell an opening, especially if they can pull in some “Nunn Democrats.”
Across the border in Florida, Democrats are looking to another senatorial daughter in a competitive House seat. Gwen Graham – daughter of Bob Graham, the former governor and senator – is hoping to unseat GOP Rep. Steve Southerland in the Tallahassee district.
From Carter to Nunn to Graham, could it be a renaissance in the South for Democrats as they try to lean on some old names and save the current ones?
Democratic pollster John Anzalone, who has worked on several Southern races and counts Graham and Carter among clients this cycle, cautions that candidates can’t run on their names alone.
But for a party that’s taken it on the chin in the region they once dominated, a familiar name certainly does carry extra weight, Anzalone adds.
“It sends a signal, especially in the South, that people remember, and know if you’re in Louisiana what a ‘Landrieu Democrat’ is. If you’re in Georgia and you say ’ a Carter Democrat,’ that differentiates you from a national Democrat or what’s going on in D.C.,” he said. “People understand if you’re a ‘Nunn Democrat,’ you’re a pragmatist, you’re a moderate.”
Yet Republicans argue that the names won’t be enough in this current political climate.
“They can’t resuscitate the Democratic party of the 1970s – no matter how many Democrats they trot out,” said GOP strategist Brad Todd. “Everybody loves a family reunion and a green bean casserole, but it’s only one day and it doesn’t last forever.”