Speculation abounds after both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Former Governor Jeb Bush, the potential 2016 presidential campaign candidates on their party's wish list spoke at the same higher education conference in Irving, Texas on Monday, March 24, 2014. Although they spoke hours apart the media went into overdrive, wondering if these two will be the Democratic and Republican candidate presidential candidates in 2016. Both Clinton and Bush have dedicated their political careers to education issues, and the Globalization of Higher Education was hosted by the former Florida governor and North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt and focused on "globalization and post-secondary education."
Clinton and Bush did not share the stage at any point. At the start of her keynote address, Clinton thanked Bush for his work on the conference and educational issues, saying; "I want to thank Jeb Bush, someone else who really focused on education during his time as governor. And who has continued hat work with passion and dedication in the years since." According to CNN only off the stage at the conference did Clinton and Bush meet up and talked.
Clinton has spent whole public career from being the first lady in the 1990s, through her tenure in the Senate and as Secretary of State on promoting education, especially for girls and women. While Bush emphasized education during his two terms as governor of Florida, CNN recounted that Bush "overhauled the state's education system, introduc[ed] a school voucher program and bann[ed] using race as a factor in university admissions."
The Former Secretary of State discussed universities expanding their global reach by as CNN explained; "deliver[ing] education resources around the world." She suggested that access needs to be improved for universities, but also alternative post-secondary education such as "community colleges and vocational programs."
Clinton expressed concern about the state of the quality of education in the country; "I worry that we're closing the doors to higher education in our own country. Providing education for everybody has to be the goal, and not just any education but a quality education."
In her speech Clinton stated that education "...is one of the most valuable assets that the United States has. It's something that we have to continue to invest in, to protect and indeed to share with the rest of the world."
Former Governor Bush delivered the "opening remarks" at the conference and discussed the problems with access to education and increasing it through technology. Bush proposed; "Utilizing technology to explore post-secondary education into rapidly emerging markets can become a principle platform for realizing the pent-up value of U.S. grants and can bring a sustainable economic model to American universities."
Earlier on the weekend Hillary Clinton, participated with husband former President Bill Clinton, and daughter Chelsea in a three-day conference hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that lasted from Friday, March 21 until Sunday, March 23 and held at Arizona State University in Tempe.
Over 1000 students attended the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, which focused on higher education and millenials and the issues important to that generation. Also addressing the conference were former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel also interviewed the Clinton family during a forum in front of the audience.
Although education is an important subject to Clinton, capturing the youth vote would be very important in any potential run in 2016, it was what she missed in 2008 when the youth threw their support behind Barack Obama, catapulting him to the Democratic nomination and the presidency. At the conference Clinton definitely tried to appeal to the millenials in attendance, by "taking 'selfies' and shaking hands" Clinton also praised the students, saying; "[Millennials] are actually more active in participating in all kinds of activities."
A potential Clinton presidential run was the undercurrent at that conference too, with her words being carefully parsed to determine her intentions in 2016. Former President Bill Clinton encouraged the students to get involved in politics, advising; "Changing the world is a group enterprise. There's no place for any of us in the peanut gallery. We have to be on the field and playing."
Hillary Clinton too discussed the importance of getting involved in politics; "Too many people think somehow if they don't get what they worked for right away, that either they have failed, or it wasn't meant to be. Or they give up because they can't bear the energy and the disappointment of going on - when in fact that is often the best time to learn about yourself and what you're capable of doing."
Clinton encouraged students not to be discouraged by failure if at first do not succeed, using personal examples from both her husband's, the former president's and her own experiences, saying; "Certainly, the first time Bill ran for office, he lost ... and he could very easily have drawn a different conclusion. Instead, he thought, OK, what did I do wrong, what should I do more." She continued about her own foray into political success and failure in 2008; "I never thought I would run for office, but when I started to, I was elected to the Senate twice… But then I had a big loss that we all remember."
During the interview with Kimmel Hillary Clinton was also faced with a student from the University of California-Berkeley asking if she will run in 2016; saying; "Mrs. Clinton, if you don't represent women in politics in America as future president, who will?" Clinton tried to be evasive; "I appreciate the sentiment. I am very much concerned about the direction of our country. It's not just who runs for office, but what they do once they get there." then she finally responded after some prompting from Kimmel; "I'm obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions."
Although both Clinton and Bush are sitting at different places in potential presidential candidates polls there is still a desire to see the two as the national parties candidates in the 2016 general election.
In a recent CNN/ORC International survey released on Sunday, March 16, 2014, Hillary Clinton had an overwhelming 63 percent of support from Democrats and Democratic leaning independents, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush placed fifth with 9 percent, but above New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the other main top contender for the Republican nomination.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll, looked at the "voters' candidate preference" for the first primary state, Iowa, whose caucus is the first contest of the year, Clinton had 51 percent to Bush's 37 percent.
Another advantage Clinton has is the history making aspect of her potential presidency, she would be the first female president, the subject was addressed in a recent Gallup poll, with 1 in 5 or 18 percent of respondents gave that response. Democrats, women and millenials aged 18 to 29 are the ones most excited about the prospects of Clinton presidency, with "22% of women, 27% of 18- to 29-year-olds, and 30% of Democrats" responding that the best and most positive of a Clinton presidency would be that she would serve as the first women president.
Making history also appeals to the youth vote, which is necessary should the Democrats win in 2016, but Democrats usually though have an edge with that age group. Republicans however, will most probably counter attack about Clinton's age; she will turn 69 right after the 2016 presidential election.
Americans however, do not see Clinton as that old, a recent USA Today poll released on March 4 indicated that only 30 percent of respondents believed Clinton was in her 60s, whereas 66 percent believed she was only in her 50s and some even thought she was as young as in her 40s. Millenials do not feel that Clinton's age is really an issue; at a recent event at the University of Miami a female student stated; "Age isn't a factor. It's how 'with it' you are. She's very with it."
The entire Republican field is younger than Clinton, except for Jeb Bush and Rick Perry who are still younger, and Bush is still only 61. The closest potential candidate in the running for the Democratic nomination is Vice President Joe Biden, who is older than Clinton by nearly 5 years.
Still that age argument against Clinton might not work since Ronald Reagan, the oldest elected president garnered 60 percent of the youth vote in 1980. Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist told CNN that "Ronald Reagan is the oldest person ever elected president; he got 60% of the youth vote. Hillary Clinton can make history. That excites young people."
Despite the poll numbers Bush is considered a favorite among the Republican establishment especially since they are concerned that Christie is tarnished from the "George Washington Bridge traffic scandal," and fear public favorite Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is too libertarian to appeal to a far range of voters including independents.
They also think Bush would be the best candidate to face-off against Clinton in the election, with his background as governor and his support from Hispanic voters. Ari Fleischer one of the Press Secretaries under former President George W. Bush expressed that Jeb Bush "would be a fascinating candidate. He's a former governor of Florida, he does so well with the Hispanic vote, his focus on education. He has a very modern appeal."
Both have stated they will make their decision to run for president by the end of the year, latest early 2015, but after the midterm elections. Bush has already stated in November 2013 what will determine if he runs in 2016, clarifying; "The thinking part is not really related to the politics of all this but whether I can do it with joy in my heart and whether it's going to be right for my family. Those are the two considerations."
Speaking to the Washington Post Fred Davis, "a senior adviser on past GOP presidential campaigns" discussed a potential match-up between another Bush and another Clinton, stating; "Jeb and Hillary - that easily could be what the race comes down to. You have two dynasties, and that actually helps Jeb's chances. Everybody always says there's no way people would elect another Bush. Well, same with Clinton."
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.