It’s true, Dubya is well liked by most Republicans notwithstanding his having paved the way for eight years of Hopenchange. What I don’t understand is how Feehery gets from that Point A to Point B, i.e. that Republicans who like Bush are so fiercely protective of him even now that they’ll punish Trump for what is, after all, a fairly mundane buck-stops-here criticism of him for failing to prevent 9/11. It’s like a lefty pointing to high public support for certain gun-control measures and thinking that that means Congress should be able to pass those measures with little problem. Polls, be it on gun control or on George W. Bush’s favorable rating, may capture the general mood of public sentiment but they rarely capture the intensity of it. Most gun-control fans just don’t care much about this issue; I suspect most Dubya admirers outside of Jeb’s own (small) base of voters don’t care much about his legacy either. Feehery’s skepticism here reeks of the same thinking that pronounced Trump finished after he questioned McCain’s war heroism over the summer. Under normal rules of politics, that would probably be true. We haven’t been operating under normal rules since June. Besides, dumping on Bush is a shrewd way for Trump to brand himself as a “different kind of Republican” for the general election if he does manage to survive the primaries. There’s a reason Jeb hasn’t been eager to show off Dubya on the trail, no?
Until now, I mean.
That’s from a new fundraising pitch on Jeb’s campaign page. I tend to treat each new mention of Dubya by Jeb as an acknowledgment of his weakness in the race: Ideally he’d be spending every waking hour building his own distinct brand, or at worst as someone who’d govern more like Bush 41 than Bush 43. But he’s polling so poorly that his best chance right now may be to hope that Feehery’s right, that there’s enough residual goodwill for Dubya among the primary electorate (and nostalgia for the last time Republicans held the White House) that 43 can be more of an asset for him than a liability. Easy prediction: If Jeb does rebound and reenters the top tier as the main threat to Trump, Dubya will suddenly become scarce again on the trail.
Go read Erick Erickson make the case for why Jeb, if he really wants to stop Trump, should consider dropping out sooner rather than later. He’s right that Bush’s candidacy gives Trump fans a convenient way to deflect any negativity about their hero, no matter how justified: The most common response on Twitter to criticism of Trump is “sorry, Jeb fan, but I’m not voting for another Bush.” Whether the critic supports Bush or not is irrelevant; it’s the dichotomy, that one is either pro-Trump or pro-Bush with no third option, that’s useful. Jeb getting out would complicate that. Erick’s right that someone else would simply be slotted into the “establishment ogre” role — “sorry, Rubio fan, but I’m not voting for a guy who’s pro-amnesty” — but that would have less bite against a candidate who, unlike Jeb, is personally appealing and lacks the same dynastic pedigree.