(2 of 3)
Some of what drives the family can be found in ancient tribal script laid down by the patriarch, the President's grandfather, Senator Prescott Bush, who died in 1972, a decade after he left elective office. He told the oral-history project at Columbia University in 1966 that "everybody doesn't have an equal obligation. Some people have better opportunities than others to serve and better faculties, better equipment ... to do something about the public service." But if noblesse oblige is one ingredient behind the family's magic, it doesn't begin to describe the permanent marks the Bushes have made on American political life in the past 25 years. Several other traits help explain their success:
•THEY MOVE WITH THEIR PARTY
The Bush machine has carefully tracked the geographic and philosophical changes in the G.O.P. over the past 50 years. Both the family and the party slipped their moorings in the moderate Northeastern U.S. in the 1960s and drifted South and West, toward new, more conservative strongholds in the Sunbelt. Prescott Bush was an iconic, New England moderate Republican who played golf with Ike and supported Planned Parenthood. George H.W. Bush straddled both worlds, running from Texas as a Goldwater Republican in 1964 but also embracing the Big Government Republicanism of Nixon in the '70s. By '88, he was again in synch with his party, having moved rightward to embrace the Reagan legacy but later pushing off with a "kinder, gentler" thrust that voters admired. Jeb, who is perhaps the most socially conservative Bush, is the most multicultured: he married a Mexican woman, and his children speak fluent Spanish. It's a good bet his son George Prescott Bush, 28, will run for something in the years ahead. But the distant from Prescott to Jeb is unmistakable: Jeb finds himself in court these days fighting to keep the husband of a severely incapacitated Florida woman from turning off her respirator.
•THEY LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKES
Every Bush has tasted defeat early on, and that too is both a rite of passage and a secret weapon: the Bushes go to school on their own failures. Prescott Bush lost a U.S. Senate bid in 1950 before he was elected two years later. George H.W. Bush also tried for the Senate in 1964 but was defeated and later won a seat in Congress. In 1994 Jeb blew his first attempt to become Florida Governor. And W. got shellacked when he first ran for Congress, in 1978. "I vowed never to get out-countried again," W. told TIME FOUR YEARS AGO. They even study one another's losses. Oone night in 1994, Bush peppered a houseguest who had worked for his father for four years with questions about why the old man has lost in 1992. "They learn from their defeats, and they keep coming after you," said a friend who likens them to science-fiction characters who will not die despite being bombarded by lasers..
•THEY SPREAD ACROSS THE COUNTRY