Jeb Bush goes alpha: "If someone comes at me, bam! I'll come back at 'em"

This is basic politics and shouldn’t be remarkable, but because Jeb comes off as “the sensitive dad from a contemporary sitcom” and because Trump has done such a superb job of needling him over that element of his persona, the comment feels ridiculous. I can’t read it without imagining Elmer Fudd saying it, while Bugs “Trump” Bunny winks knowingly at the audience. You don’t know what’s coming but you know it’s going to end badly for poor Elmer.

Take it from me: The only way to salvage some dignity from being a beta male is to accept your beta-ness. Posturing as an alpha when you’re clearly not risks the Fudd effect.

Autographing photos of himself on the campaign trail, U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush held up one that showed him heavier by 40 pounds (18 kilograms) and another of the slimmed-down campaign model.

“That’s a low-energy picture,” Bush, 62, chuckled after the portly version was thrust into his hands in Salem, New Hampshire, site of a town hall event. “This is a high-energy picture,” he said of the skinnier Jeb photo…

Initially stung when Trump, 69, pinned the “low-energy” label on him, Bush is taking a two-prong approach, joking about it and showing more fire on the campaign trail. He plans to take a more aggressive tack at the debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

“If someone comes at me, bam! I’ll come back at ’em,” he said in Salem, smacking a fist into a palm. “I’ll campaign hard.”

The fist bit is a nice touch. I wonder if that’s part of Jeb’s debate prep:

Now, after failing to directly confront Mr. Trump, the current front-runner, during the first debate, Mr. Bush and his aides are under pressure to create a memorable showdown with the real estate developer to match a newly aggressive tone on the campaign trail…

In rigorous practice sessions that have crisscrossed the country in the past few weeks, Mr. Bush has been preparing pointed responses to Mr. Trump’s most frequent insults (he has called Mr. Bush “low energy” and a slave to donors) and crafting lines of attack on Mr. Trump’s history of liberal statements and unconventional policy plans, according to those who have been told of the plans.

“He has to challenge Trump now,” said Mac Stipanovich, an adviser to Mr. Bush during his 1994 campaign for governor who helped prepare him for debates that year. “He has to stand toe to toe with him and call him out.”

So irked is Jeb by the “low energy” swipes that Trump’s been taking at him that he reminded one audience over the weekend that he was known as “Ever-Ready” to his security detail in Florida when he was governor. I’d put the odds of him tossing a “come at me, bro” at Trump at the debate at no worse than 50/50. His problem on Wednesday night, though, is that there may be a bunch of candidates piling on Trump, with Jeb’s attacks at risk of getting lost in the shuffle. Rand Paul is supposedly “spoiling for a fight” over eminent domain abuse, which would be a fine idea for an attack on Trump if the conservative base still cared about such things. Chris Christie, who lost an amazing 57 percent of his support to Trump by one measurement after Trump got in the race, is also promising a “nuclear” response if he doesn’t get his fair share of questions, whatever that means. Carly Fiorina’s inevitably going to be asked about Trump’s wisecrack about her face and will have no choice but to hit back. And Scott Walker will be desperate to get back on voters’ radar screens by any means necessary so he has an incentive to scrap with Trump too. Trump himself has been focused lately mainly on attacking Ben Carson, his new rival for the lead in the polls, so he might not give Bush any easy openings for a back-and-forth. In fact, if I were Trump, that’s how I’d approach Jeb at the debate — with indifference, befitting a struggling candidate, rather than the disdain you’d reserve for a top challenger. Bush’s best asset remains his sense of inevitability. Take that away from him and what’s left?

Trump wouldn’t be wrong to treat him as a struggling candidate either. Here’s the latest poll of New Hampshire from Monmouth. Remember, of the three major early states, this is the one Jeb’s counting on to deliver him a victory.

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He’s fifth there now, a point behind rock-ribbed conservative Ted Cruz in a state known for preferring moderates like Jeb to traditional righties.

Speaking of piling on Trump, here’s Bobby Jindal previewing his new campaign theme, which he’ll be hammering at the undercard debate on Wednesday night.

Jazz Shaw Jun 22, 2021 6:01 PM ET