There are still plenty of people, from moneybags donors to political scientists, along with some Democrats, who are convinced Jeb Bush will ultimately win the Republican presidential nomination. Maybe Bush himself is supremely confident despite his dubious poll ratings and the beatings he seems to take everytime he tries to engage Donald Trump.
But I have to say, Team Bush’s current situation just has to be discouraging, particularly when you consider what might have been, as I discussed today at the Washington Monthly:
A new Quinnipiac poll of Iowa shows Bush still scratching around the second tier of candidates at 5%, below even the doomed Rand Paul, and with an underwater approval ratio of 43/51. Worse yet, a new Bloomberg Politics/St. Anselm’s poll of New Hampshire shows that a month-long positive ad blitz by Murphy’s Right to Rise Super-PAC has done absolutely nothing to improve Jeb’s horse-race standing or his approval ratios.
Think about how this must feel to Jeb Bush himself. He’s been spending time in Iowa since 1980, when he campaigned there for Poppy. Yet the more Iowans see of him, the less they seem to like him, which is not a recipe for a late surge, is it?
More broadly, consider the arc of Jebbie’s political career. Had he not in his first gubernatorial run unaccountably stumbled against the He-Coon, Lawton Chiles, in the great Republican year of 1994, he would have almost certainly been the dynastic presidential candidate in 2000 with massive Establishment and Conservative Movement backing (indeed, he was universally considered the one True Conservative in the whole clan back then). As governor of Florida, he probably would not have needed a coup d’etat from the U.S. Supreme Court to carry the state and the election. He could have been the one to “keep us safe” after 9/11. As the most serious of the Bush brothers, he quite possibly would not have required Dick Cheney as a caretaker and foreign policy chief, and perhaps would not have rushed into an Iraq War so precipitously. With his experience governing a perennial hurricane target, Jeb almost certainly would not have mishandled Katrina so grievously. But any way you look at it, he’d probably by now be enjoying the warm embrace of a post-presidential career instead of enduring the insults of surly Tea Partiers on the campaign trail and looking up wistfully at the poll standings of people like Donald Trump and Ben Carson.
The Carson thing has got to be especially galling to Jeb. Here’s a guy who not only has never run for office, but is suspending his campaign to go on a book tour. Yet the same poll that shows a majority of Iowa Republicans disapproving of Jeb Bush gives Carson an almost unimaginable 84/10 ratio.
Maybe Bush has nerves of steel or Murphy has hired a hypnotist to accompany him everywhere and buzz away any consciousness of discouraging words. But if I were him I’d be tempted to blow the whole thing off and go make money until it’s time for assisted living. As it stands, Jeb must wonder if Lawton Chiles is laughing at him from the Great Beyond.