Iowa Poll: Bill and George W. May Not Hurt Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush

A majority of likely Iowa caucus-goers in both parties do not fear possible advisory roles for the former presidents.
Photographer: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The nation's next president may well be advised by a former one. For the most part, that prospect doesn't seem to trouble Iowa caucus-goers. 

Fifty-seven percent of likely Republican caucus-goers in a new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll said that it would be “mostly good” for Jeb Bush's presidency if he were to tap his older brother, George, as a close adviser. Thirty-three percent said such an arrangement would be “mostly bad” for Jeb Bush's presidency.

As for Hillary Clinton, a whopping 83 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers approved of the idea of her using her husband, Bill, as a close adviser, while just 9 percent said doing so was a “mostly bad” suggestion for her presidency. 

Read the poll questions and methodology here.

Interviewed on CBS's Face the Nation in May, Jeb Bush said that his older brother “is not going to be a problem at all. I seek out his advice,” adding that he had "learned from his successes and his mistakes." 

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Poll respondent Sarah Rynearson, an independent who plans to caucus with Republicans, is similarly at ease with the idea of Bush being advised by his brother.  

“I think it would be a great idea, because I think his brother was a great president,” said Rynearson, 36, who delivers meals to the elderly in Waterloo, Iowa. 

Republican respondent Thomas Stanley, 60, of Fairfield, Iowa, disagreed. 

“I think that George W. Bush did a very poor job at trying to unify the country around commonly held beliefs,” Stanley said, adding that the former president's foreign policy decisions were “part of” what should preclude him from serving as an adviser to his brother. “Dick Cheney is another part. Donald Rumsfeld is another. He just had advisers that were pretty extreme.”

When Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he told voters that if they elected him, they would get “two for the price of one” in reference to his wife. More than 20 years later, that prospect is sitting well with likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers. 

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“They've both already been there and done that before. They seem to be a good team, and work together really well together,” said Democrat Mickie Franklin, 33, a Transportation Security Administration worker who lives in Nevada, Iowa. “She seems like a really strong-willed lady. And she seems like if someone she knew felt very strongly about something, she might take their opinion, but not necessarily go with what they want. I think there's nothing wrong with getting advice from him.” 

Ben Frazier, a 21-year-old Democrat and political science major at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, voiced reservations.

“It's going to be important for her to think on her own and show that she has the necessary experience to make her own decisions,” he said. “I feel like he's going to want to be more involved than he should be. Politically speaking, Bill Clinton is out of his prime.”

Bush has struggled with the question of how much to embrace his family legacy on the campaign trail. He has repeatedly said “I'm my own man” when asked how he would distinguish himself from his brother and the other former president in his family, his father. At the same time, he has assembled a team of foreign policy advisers that closely resembles his brother's.

Bush has also stumbled over the question of whether, with the benefit of hindsight, he would have sent U.S. troops into Iraq

Clinton, meanwhile, has distanced herself from several of her husband's former policies, including support for free trade agreements, support for three-strikes legislation, and opposition to gay marriage. Like his wife, Bill Clinton has changed many of his former positions, making for less of a contrast between the two. 

The survey of 437 likely Democratic caucus-goers has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points, while the survey of 402 likely Republican caucus-goers has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. The West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co. conducted the poll May 25-29. 

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