Time for an imprudent prediction: The nominees for 2016 will be Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
Ultimately, after months of twists, turns and drama, we will wind up with the two candidates with the most money and the most establishment support from their respective parties. This is a year when voters seem particularly tired of the same old thing, but nonetheless that's the safest bet, that the nominees will be the ones with the strongest claim on that nebulous, special quality of seeming presidential.
What's really remarkable is not the retro sound of Bush vs. Clinton, but just how much these two political giants have in common. Their shared traits go a long way toward explaining why they are having trouble in their primaries as well as why each is so formidable.
Consider 10 similarities:
1. The wonk factor. Look past the Florida governor and former New York senator if you want soaring Barack Obama rhetoric or sheer Donald Trump showmanship. If you want a substantive candidate who loves wading into the weeds of almost any policy debate, Bush-Clinton is the ticket. Prefer arcane statistics to anger or red-meat speeches? Check out Clinton-Bush.
"You can fill out your tax return in Estonia online in five minutes," Bush, 62, has marvelled a number of times.
"Eighty percent of your brain is physically formed by the age of 3," says Clinton, 67, in noting how often her granddaughter, Charlotte, is read to and the value of quality preschool. "Research shows that by the time she enters kindergarten she will have heard 30 million more words than a child from a less-advantaged background."
2. Family ties: Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton may be the most qualified presidential candidates in many election cycles, but they likely would be nobodies without their last names and family connections.
Jeb would have had little chance to win Florida's 1994 Republican gubernatorial nomination without an overwhelming financial advantage provided by the Bush political network. Likewise, Hillary was a corporate lawyer before her husband's political career launched her to first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
The Clinton/Bush networks have made them the overwhelming favorites of the political establishment — as well as Wall Street.
3. Dynasty fatigue. Countless Americans agreed with Barbara Bush's sentiments last year: "If we can't find more than two or three families to run for high office, that's silly. ... The Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes — there are just more families than that."
Bush fatigue appears to be significantly greater than Clinton fatigue. Clinton still looks like the overwhelming frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination while Bush is slogging through a wide-open Republican primary, where many voters question whether another Bush is doomed to lose.
4. Yesteryear candidates. Both face the challenge of convincing voters that they represent the future and not the past.
That's pretty much the central argument of Marco Rubio: "Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. But we can't do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past," the 44-year-old Rubio said in announcing his presidential campaign. "We must change the decisions we are making by changing the people who are making them."
"If we're running against Hillary Clinton, we'll need a name from the future — not a name from the past — to win," Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told me.
5. The center. Clinton and Bush represent the ideological centers of their parties, which is generally viewed as the way to win a general election. But it's also why so many conservatives dismiss Bush as a RINO — Republican In Name Only — and why so many Democrats are showing up at Bernie Sanders' rallies or pining for a candidate from the "Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party."
6. Media matters. Bush and Clinton can get testy and contemptuous of reporters — "Nobody talks to me about it other than you guys," Clinton said of her email problem, walking away from a news conference the other day.
Bush, however, has always been more willing to engage with reporters, and in this race has been more accessible than Clinton. The national press corps seems to like him far more than Clinton.
7. Foundations. Bill, Hillary and Chelsea have their Clinton Foundation, which has raised conflict of interest red flags related to a slew of foreign donations that came in while she was secretary of state.
Jeb Bush had his Foundation for Florida's Future, which raised conflict of interest flags concerning donors ingratiating with Bush leading up to his widely anticipated election as governor in 1998.
8. Blind spots to perception. Call it arrogance or call it a sense of entitlement, but Clinton and Bush are both capable of breathtakingly bad decisions that come back to bite them.
Clinton's decision to use a private email server is the most obvious.
Bush, who already had a track record of doing business with sketchy characters, thought it made sense at the same time he was exploring a presidential run last year to raise millions of dollars from foreign investors for his private equity ventures.
9. Emails. Clinton and Bush used private email servers and domains while serving in public office. The stakes are much higher when classified, national security matters are at stake, but both decided by themselves which emails they considered public records and would release and which they would not.
These smart and serious leaders are so alike and so different at the same time. They could probably offer one another advice or even a shoulder to cry on. Why?
10. Crying. Each has a knack for tearing up in public.
Contact Adam C. Smith at email@example.com. Follow @adamsmithtimes.