Byron York
In January 2008, at a John McCain rally in Columbia, S.C., I asked a number of local politicos to look back to the brutal 2000 Republican primary in their state, the one between McCain and George W. Bush. They had all supported Bush back then, and I asked whether, given the inconclusive wars, runaway federal spending and economic catastrophe of the next eight years, they felt they made the right choice.

The answer was yes. They explained that they had strongly supported Ronald Reagan, and then they supported George H.W. Bush because they had supported Reagan, and then supported George W. Bush because they had supported George H.W. Bush. It was just a natural progression.

Now, after decisive presidential defeats in 2008 and 2012, there is another Bush to consider as party insiders buzz about the possibility of a Jeb Bush candidacy. But the question, in South Carolina and elsewhere, is whether the enormous legacy advantage that George W. Bush enjoyed will still be there.

"There was a sense of loyalty that started with Reagan and moved to H.W. and then to W," said Barry Wynn, a former South Carolina GOP chairman and a continuing influential figure in the state. "Whether that translates to Jeb or not I just don't know."

Wynn, a supporter of Bush I and II, said he believes Jeb's fortunes will depend on whether there is a "fresh face that is so compelling that it overcomes the legacy effect." Wynn mentioned Florida Sen. Marco Rubio but said the newcomer could be one of several others as well.

The bottom line is that a Jeb Bush candidacy could turn the Republican presidential race into a forward vs. backward contest, not because Bush's policies would be backward (they might be just the opposite), but because his family tree, both personal and political, reaches far into the GOP past and would force Republicans to decide whether it's time to move on or whether it's possible to go to the well one more time.

"It's too far removed," said state Sen. John Courson, who recalls the Reagan years as the most exciting of his political life. "It was eons ago. (Jeb's) father was Reagan's vice president, his brother was president, but that is starting to wane, too. ... In my personal opinion, with all due respect to Gov. Bush, I would like to look forward to a Rubio or an Ayotte, or someone of that nature."

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner