There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not Jeb Bush wants to be president. He doesn’t seem to have that “fire in his belly” that his brother so often demonstrated on the campaign trail, and he didn’t seem to be very interested in his campaign at the outset beyond the massive fundraising efforts and trying to win support from the traditional GOPe “king makers.” This, actually, is what convinces me that Jeb does want to be president; he’s just doing it the old, tired way, a way that simply doesn’t work as traditional venues for political campaigns simply don’t have the same audience share (and thus power) they once did. It also doesn’t help that the Republican primary voters are fed up with—and actively rebelling against—the traditional “it’s your turn now” approach to GOP candidates for president.
Jeb and his campaign have a tried a number of strategies to help salvage his campaign, but from cutting staff to clumsy and awkward attacks on Marco Rubio and Donald Trump, his campaign quickly moved from tragedy to farce.
With the new year, Jeb seems to be planning a new series of steps to salvage his campaign. The New York Times reports that “aides to Mr. Bush and important allies described a long-shot plan to pull off what seems all but impossible: winning the Republican nomination for president. The plan has six elements.”
STAY ON THE ATTACK In late 2015, Mr. Bush called Donald J. Trump “a jerk,” “unhinged” and a “chaos candidate.” Expect more of the same in 2016, when Mr. Bush plans to aim his most aggressive attacks largely at Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton. Though he was initially slow to take on Mr. Trump, the real estate billionaire turned politician has proved a useful foil. Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, has cast himself as the only Republican strong enough to stand up to Mr. Trump.
I’m not sure what they are thinking here. Jeb’s attacks on Rubio and on Trump don’t move his poll numbers (unless you count downward), and they actually make him look petty and petulant (he gets a bit shrill and precious when he’s talking about Trump being “unserious”). The problem, I think, is that Jeb is personally offended not by Trump but by the American people’s (or at least GOP primary voters’) rejection of him in favor of someone whom he genuinely sees as “unhinged” and “chaotic.”
It’s his turn, after all, don’t we know that? That shrill whining tone that creeps into his voice when he attacks the other candidates comes across as that of a child who has had his favorite toy taken away, not as serious attacks by a balanced, mature man who wishes to be president.
Doubling down on a demonstrably faulty tactic strikes me as less than clever.
AVOID EMBARRASSMENT IN IOWA Mr. Bush knows he is not likely to win Iowa. He just can’t lose there too badly.
In Iowa, Mr. Bush has two main goals: to finish no lower than fifth (third place is the optimistic goal) and, more important, to beat Mr. Christie.
It’s too late for that. Anything less than a first place win there simply wasn’t conceivable when Jeb launched his campaign early (with the shock and awe of a massive war chest and major backers). That he’s hopeful for fifth is . . . kind of sad.
DO WELL IN NEW HAMPSHIRE Did somebody say “town hall”?
Expect Mr. Bush to practically move to New Hampshire, the state where loyal donors are expecting a turnaround, and where Mr. Bush’s strategists believe he needs to finish ahead of Mr. Christie, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio and Mr. Rubio to emerge as the establishment’s alternative to Mr. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
The campaign has five offices and 20 paid staff members throughout the state, with 20 more coming this month. Mr. Bush plans to spend at least half of his time there, with trips every week before the Feb. 9 primary, and he recently called it his “second home.”
He has a better shot at doing passably well in New Hampshire than in Iowa, so this strikes me as a good move.
WOO LINDSEY GRAHAM Throughout the campaign, Mr. Bush had made a point of texting Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina weekly, just to check in. On the morning Mr. Graham dropped out of the race for president, Mr. Bush was ready with the hard sell.
Mr. Bush immediately sent him a message, and the two men spoke on the phone later that day, when Mr. Bush made his pitch — that he was the best prepared to be commander in chief and the most qualified on Mr. Graham’s main issue, national security.
Because what we learned from the now-defunct Graham campaign is that Republican primary voters just love him.
USE THE FAMILY NETWORK Another key for Mr. Bush in South Carolina is his older brother, former President George W. Bush.
Though no final decision has been made, aides say the campaign is most likely to deploy the former president in the state — where he remains popular — sometime after the New Hampshire primary.
But how and where to use the 43rd president is a vexing question for the campaign. George Bush is certain to remind voters that his brother hails from a political dynasty. And he could force Jeb Bush to confront the decision to invade Iraq, an issue the candidate stumbled over early on. Aides further worry that the former president, a charismatic and agile campaigner, could outshine his brother on the stump.
Remind voters already reluctant to back a dynasty and quick to quote Jeb’s own mother, former First Lady Barbara Bush, as saying, “We’ve had enough Bushes” when asked whether Jeb should even run? These ideas just seem completely out of touch with what real voters are thinking . . . or want.
Watch Mark Steyn discuss this very point in terms of monarchy:
CONTINUE THE AD BLITZ Mr. Bush’s super PAC has so far spent tens of millions on television ads that have largely failed to help his standing in the polls. But the group will continue the ad campaign, keeping its focus on Mr. Trump, but also beginning to contrast Mr. Bush with his rivals for the party’s more mainstream base.
Right to Rise has started a voter identification and canvassing program in New Hampshire, and in addition to television ads, it is putting money behind radio, mail and digital in the early states, including some in the March 1 primary, which includes several Southern states. The group also already reserved a nearly $17 million television ad purchase for the March states.
Because the multiple millions he and his PAC’s have already spent have successfully moved him to 4%? Again, it’s hard to fathom what they are thinking over at Jeb HQ.
I see nothing in this strategy that has any hope of success. The only thing that will help Jeb now is if Trump and Cruz on the anti-establishment side and Rubio and Christie on the establishment side all crash and burn in the next 30 days. And that doesn’t seem at all likely.DONATE
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