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  • | 4:00 a.m. April 23, 2014
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Rand Paul cannot win. Hillary Clinton will not win. Jeb Bush will.

If history is a good predictor — and it is, because history repeats — those three statements should ultimately prove to be accurate.

Start with history. If you look at the accompanying box, you can see a common thread running through the voting of the American electorate. In seven presidential elections since 1932, American voters have shown an intolerance for egregious or incompetent behavior and lousy economic conditions.

Hoover: Voters blamed him for the Great Depression. (History has shown Hoover had a lot of accomplices in the collapse of the U.S. economy — mainly gross mismanagement of monetary policy at the Federal Reserve Bank and Congress’ adoption, with Hoover’s signature of the destructive Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act.) Lousy economy; and a perception of incompetence.

Johnson: Lyndon Johnson’s political mismanagement of the Vietnam War created a cauldron of discontent. On top of that, dozens of race riots erupted in American cities after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Voters blamed Johnson — his incompetence. So they took out their frustration on Johnson’s successor-to-be, Hubert Humphrey, and elected Richard Nixon.

Nixon: Put him in the category of egregiously intolerable behavior.

Carter: Gross incompetence and a lousy economy.

Bush I: He could have won re-election, but he fell victim to a weak economy and for breaking the promise of “no new taxes.”

Clinton/Gore: Although Bill Clinton governed as an acceptable moderate, his skirt-chasing dominated the news cycles. His bad behavior behind closed doors carried over into dislike for his successor, Al Gore.

Bush II: The collapse of the economy — and discontent with war — paved the way for the “hope and change” of Barack Obama.

The one exception so far to the bad behavior and bad economy thread has been Obama. Given the state of the economy in 2012 and his performance in office (“Fast and furious,” Benghazi, doubling of U.S. debt, explosion in food stamps, passage of Obamacare and on and on), he should have lost in 2012. To be sure, his performance didn’t earn him a second term.

Chalk that victory to a forgiving American electorate and a weak Republican candidate.

But considering what has transpired since the 2012 election — Obama’s feckless, embarrassing handling of foreign affairs; Obamacare; and his dictator-like disregard for the Constitution — and no signs of changing — you can see he is creating the electoral environment for the thread to continue: Voters won’t tolerate a continuation of these policies. Out with the Democratic White House, in with a Republican.

But it must be the right Republican.

And that’s certainly not Rand Paul.

For one, as a lady friend tells us, he needs to do something about his hair. The curly-Qs simply do not look presidential.

But the biggest obstacle is foreign policy. In his avowed libertarian view — that we have no business interfering in the affairs of others and that use of military is never the way to settle disputes — he runs aground on the overwhelming view of Americans. Which is: a strong defense and an active role in the world. Lead from the front, always.

Paul cannot win — not because we fear him; because voters won’t elect him.

Mrs. Clinton will not win because she will be running at the wrong time. Voters will have had their fill of Obama and the Democratic Party’s other tyrannical dictator, Senate President Harry Reid. Her party affiliation paints her the tarnish of others’ egregious, bad behavior, not to mention her own. It does matter.

That brings us to Bush — Jeb.

Get over the dynasty thing. Americans should be all right with that. We have all seen — in spite of what the policies of Bush I and Bush II were — the Bush family is extraordinarily likable. By Republicans and Democrats alike. Surely you’ve read how Bill Clinton and Bush I have bonded so closely Clinton sees the eldest statesman as a father figure. Barbara Bush said on national TV: “I love Bill Clinton.” Bush II is as genuine as your favorite pair of old jeans.

But of all the Bush politicians, Jeb Bush is the smartest. If you remember back to 1999, there was a common refrain: The wrong Bush was running for president.

Jeb Bush has proven his competence — two terms as a successful governor of Florida. He has succeeded in business. And he has a nuclear weapon: He can and will win the Hispanic vote.

While Jeb Bush is often viewed as a moderate conservative, too liberal for the hard right, those who know will tell you his bone marrow is teeming with the cells of free-market capitalism, individual freedom and limited government. It really is in his DNA.

But he is also a pragmatist about life and politics.

And that is what Americans like in a president — a strong leader who can work with others. Sure, the strident lovers of liberty and defenders of our Founders want the principles of a Rand Paul. But they must accept this reality: Americans don’t like to swing quickly to extremes.

If libertarian Republicans want the White House, they need a proven candidate with wide appeal. That’s why Jeb Bush will win.

Driven by dissatisfaction with the incumbent’s policies, mistakes and performance, U.S. voters switched parties in the following elections:

• 1932 — Roosevelt defeats Hoover
After 12 years of Republican presidents, capped by the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin Roosevelt won 58% of the popular vote and 89% of the Electoral College vote.

• 1968 — Nixon defeats Humphrey
John F. Kennedy barely beat Richard Nixon in 1960. But in 1964, voters gave Lyndon Johnson a landslide victory over Barry Goldwater after Goldwater was depicted as a right-wing, nuclear-bomb radical. By 1968, with Americans disgusted by Johnson’s handling of the Vietnam War, voters switched gave Nixon a narrow vistory — 43% of the popular vote, 56% of the Electoral College vote.

• 1976 — Carter beats Ford
After the Watergate scandal dominated the news for two years, forcing Nixon’s resignation in 1974, fed-up voters rejected likable Gerald Ford and opted for Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter. Carter won 50.5% of the popular vote; 55% of the Electoral College vote.

• 1980 — Reagan defeats Carter
Distressed over gas shortages, rising inflation and Iranians overthrowing the U.S. Embassy, voters embraced the optimistic message of Ronald Reagan. Reagan won 50.9% of the popular vote; 90% of the Electoral College vote.

• 1992 — Clinton defeats Bush
A recession and George H.W. Bush’s breaking of his “no new taxes” pledge pushed voters to give up on 12 years of a Republican president. Bill Clinton won 43% of the popular vote, 69% of the Electoral College vote.

• 2000 — Bush defeats Gore
After eight years of Bill Clinton’s personal escapades in the White House and doubts about Al Gore, voters gave George W. Bush the narrowest of presidential victories in history. He lost the popular vote; he won 50.4% of the Electoral College vote.

• 2008 — Obama defeats McCain
The collapse in housing and on Wall Street, plus dissatisfaction with American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan galvanized voters to abandon the experience of Sen. John McCain for the untested promise of the inexperienced Sen. Barack Obama. Obama won 53% of the popular vote; 68% of the Electoral College vote.

• 2016 — ?
Will Obama’s liberal, big-government agenda push voters back to a Republican candidate?

Don’t forget the Campaign Against Summer Hunger. Take your non-perishable food and cash donations for All Faiths Food Bank to the Longboat Key and St. Armands Key fire stations. Deadline: May 10.



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