The broken tax-cut pledge created what is the biggest political difference between father and son. The first Bush lost the support of his base, meaning he had to spend much of his re-election scrambling, futilely, to recover it. W. is a rock star to conservatives. He cannot just depend on their energy next year, but will have more flexibility to make feints to the center, if necessary.
Finally, Bush's dad was known for his foreign-policy expertise at a time when the Cold War had just ended and the country was ready to take a break from foreign affairs. Sept. 11 has made national security a domestic issue. There is little danger that Bush's aggressiveness overseas will be seen as detachment from the country's core needs, since it is meant to address one of those needs: to make us safer.
None of this is to say that the soft economy won't hurt Bush. But expecting him to follow the doomed re-election path of his father is folly, given his entirely different political personality and program. At the beginning of W.'s national rise, one of my colleagues gave voice to conservative suspicions of him by saying, "Genes must account for something." Perhaps less than we think.