In the 2008 presidential election, then-candidate Barack Obama seemed almost to be running against George W. Bush, his Republican predecessor.
In 2012, it's not out of the question that he'll run against a Bush for real.
In a New York Times piece out today, Jeb Bush -- the former Florida governor, brother of George W. Bush and son of George H.W. Bush -- complained that President Obama and his administration have been using his predecessor as an excuse.
"It's kind of like a kid coming to school saying, 'The dog ate my homework,'" Bush said of the current administration's criticism of the former president. "It's childish. This is what children do until they mature. They don't accept responsibility."
While Bush did concede that he appreciated the president's kindness to his father and credited Mr. Obama for his work with public schools, his compliments ended there.
"By and large, I think the president, instead of being a 21st-century leader, is Hubert Humphrey on steroids," Bush said. "I don't think there's much newness in spending more money as the solution to every problem."
The forceful criticism of the current administration in the story has renewed speculation about whether Bush could be gunning to be more than just his brother's cheerleader. Both despite and because of his family name, the Floridian is being discussed as a potential 2012 presidential candidate.
For the record, Bush told the Times that he has no intention of running in 2012 - though such denials are almost invariably taken with a grain of salt. (Ask Mr. Obama, who long maintained that he wouldn't run in 2008.)
"Mr. Bush says he has no interest in running, because he wants to make money for his family, but his political allies seem to read a 'for now' into such statements," the Times notes.
Al Cardenas, the former party chairman in Florida, told the newspaper that "Every presidential wanna-be and every member of the House and Senate I talk to, if you ask them who is a difference-maker in our party, they will tell you Jeb Bush."
Yet Bush comes with baggage - starting with the fact that after his father and brother, the country might just be feeling a bit of Bush fatigue. But his political power in the key early primary state of Florida would be a significant boost to a bid, and it's not inconceivable that the Bush brand will by 2012 (or 2016) be more of a boon than liability, especially if he can both embrace and transcend it. (Just consider thosesigns.)
"The party needs a messenger who can keep its Tea Party-type activists energized behind an agenda and a nominee, but Republicans will also be looking for someone who can reposition the party nationally and make its more strident ideology palatable to the wider American electorate," writes Matt Bai in the Times. "This explains why some influential Republicans persist in believing that Mr. Bush might still make a strong candidate in 2012."