Quotes of the day

I’ve worked for him for 18 years. I know he builds slowly and gets better and better. You saw in the debates, the second debate was strong, he’ll continue to improve, he’s doing well on the stump now. He can outlast the noise, his candidate performance will be excellent, and we’re an amplifier. Our job is just to amplify his story and what he’s saying and we banked enough cash that nobody’s turning our speaker off. And we’re the only campaign in that situation and I think we are the campaign who can consolidate the winning largest lane in the party and do so in a way that can win the general election, which I think is unique only to Jeb. And if you look at the prediction markets overseas, which are kind of interesting, because that’s the one place real money’s involved, we constantly rank number one. The smart money’s figured this out. What hasn’t figured it out is the day-to-day cable punditry—but that’s OK, that’ll follow reality. So our job is to be tuned into reality and let that stuff catch up eventually. That’s kind of our theory…

We see Feb. 1 to March 15, 45 days, as our period to seize the nomination and get in front—and there are a lot of states and a lot of congressional districts and a lot of targeting to that. One of the reasons we’ve worked so hard and Jeb, frankly, has inspired so many people to donate to us is so we have the resources to pursue that campaign. Most of these other guys are all running on spec. We’re at a point now where we’re significantly funded for those 45 days, cash in the bank today. Nobody else is in that situation in this race. Nobody’s close.

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“He is doing terribly in the polling,” Stoddard said, “It doesn’t matter what poll you are look at, Jeb is always hoping he is in the top five and that would be a good poll for Jeb.”

“But he’s playing a long game and I think actually it’s smart. There is no point in getting out now.”…

Stoddard said that if Trump bows out of the 2016 race and Carson’s standing changes, “there will be a reordering of the race and Jeb will be a player in that.”

“Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire won’t be making up their minds until January… so if he quits now just because he has bad polls and that actually ends up happening, he loses.”

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Bush has been the highest-profile GOP candidate to aggressively and consistently take on the real estate tycoon, which seems to signal that his campaign now takes Trump seriously as a threat and not just an irritant. Bush has sought to question his opponent’s conservative credentials, and has tried to cast doubt on his qualifications for the presidency.

During the second Republican debate last month, Bush caught Trump in a lie about having lobbied for casino gambling in Florida, which Trump denied. More recently, the two men have clashed over whether President George W. Bush bore responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with Bush releasing a Web video accusing Trump of foreign policy naivete.

But Bush has not benefited from these attacks: While the frontrunner has remained atop the polls, the former Florida governor’s share of support has dropped. Meanwhile, Bush’s camp has not put money behind these attacks in the form of ads to try to amplify their message.

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Less than four months before primary voting begins, Bush has sunk into second-tier status in the GOP nominating bout. He’s stuck in a single-digit polling slump, idling between fourth and fifth place in the 15-candidate field, even after his allies have blitzed the television airwaves with more than $5 million in advertising. His much heralded fundraising prowess has also been neutralized, as he’s raised essentially as much money as Sen. Ted Cruz this last quarter and saved less than the rogue upstart Ben Carson…

Even among Bush’s admirers, there’s a gathering sense he can’t win this race anymore – that in order for him to become the nominee, his rivals have to lose it.

“I’m not sure he can climb over the others,” says Mac Stipanovich, who advised Bush’s unsuccessful run for Florida governor in 1994. “They have to fall off the log. Republican primary voters are having a moment with the outsiders. It is my hope when we get further down the road that that moment will fade.”

And even if the outsiders ultimately fade or self-immolate, there stands Rubio, who is far superior to Bush stylistically and boasts a youthful shine and novelty that accentuates his rationale for a new generation of ideas. Bush’s recent strike on Rubio’s spotty attendance record as a senator seems more likely to resonate with the Beltway press pack than a New Hampshire voter. But since the two are so similar on policy, the menu of attack options at his disposal is limited.

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Jeb Bush has almost no chance of being the GOP nominee, owing to a near-complete lack of support from the GOP’s rank-and-file donors

I don’t say this because I dislike Jeb. (On the contrary, I think he has virtues as both a candidate and a person.) But the numbers don’t lie. It’s not just that his ratio of big-donor to small-dollar donations is vastly out of sync with the rest of the GOP and Democratic fields today. (Even Romney’s ratio of small-donor to big-donor dollars was more than twice Jeb’s.) Jeb’s big-donor to small-donor ratio is 15:1. No candidate has ever won the nomination with such a heavy reliance on big donors, even at a time when big-donor money made up a much larger percentage of total fundraising. For the rest of the GOP field, the ratio of big-donor to small-donor money is 1:1.6. Furthermore, Jeb ranks just third in total fundraising. For reasons I examine below, that seems unlikely to improve…

The contrast between Jeb in 2016 and George W. in 2000 could not be more dramatic. George W. Bush won by dominating among large donors, being right in the top tier with the smallest, most-grassroots donors, and dominating again among the GOP’s mid-dollar donors. That is what a strong, winning candidate looks like.

Meanwhile, Jeb, while relying on big-donor fundraising from his friends and family, takes just 35 percent of a fragmented major-donor pool. His performance with small donors is abysmal, ranking with that of fringe candidates, at a time when small-donor money has become ever more valuable. And his performance with mid-dollar donors is scarcely better, in contrast to his brother’s domination of this sector.

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Jeb’s team increasingly seems to see W. as a feature, not a bug. After the second presidential debate, his team flagged video of Jeb defending his brother’s foreign policy record from Trump’s criticism by saying the former president “kept us safe.”…

And now, the embrace is complete. On October 18, he sent out a fundraising email with the subject line “Help defend my brother.”…

This is only the latest example of Jeb capitalizing on the W. gravy train; W.’s fundraising network has always propelled Jeb’s White House dreams. CBS reported in August that more than half of the $120 million he accrued in his war chest before announcing his bid came from donors who had previously backed his father and/or brother. W. influence is all over his foreign policy team which reads like a who’s who of the W. White House.

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So why is he suddenly talking so much about his brother? Perhaps because at the heart of Bush’s campaign lies this deadly irony: His last name is the reason he’d be a terrible general-election candidate. But his last name is also the only thing about his candidacy that Republicans really like.

Think about the best moments of Bush’s campaign so far: They all involve being a Bush. Early this year, Bush claimed the mantle of GOP frontrunner because he vastly outraised his opponents. And as numerous articles have detailed, he only raised that much because he’s George H. W.’s son and George W.’s brother. An AP investigation found that, as of August, a majority of Bush’s donors had previously donated to his father or brother. When it comes to small donors, by contrast, the mark of a candidate who is generating public excitement, Bush has done terribly. A Politico report in July found that he had raised less in small increments than he had donated to himself…

According to a September YouGov survey, 79 percent of Republicans approve of the way George W. handled himself as president. Eighty-one percent think he did a good job keeping America safe. A plurality would vote for him in 2016. No wonder that when Bush invoked his brother standing amid the rubble of 9/11, the crowd at the GOP debate roared…

So it makes sense for him to return to the subject that has worked so far. The problem is that while being George W.’s brother helps Bush with Republican donors and voters, it hurts with Americans as a whole. By a margin of 11 points, Americans disapprove of the way George W. handled the presidency. By 15 points, they don’t think he did a good job keeping America safe. And by a margin of 45 points, they wouldn’t vote for him in 2016.

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Going into 2016, Jeb knew full well how explosive his last name remained within American political discourse, but he jumped into the fray regardless. In so doing, he gambled that the obvious downsides of his entry would be outweighed by the benefits. Thus far, at least, that bet is not playing out well. By remaining at the center of the maelstrom — and by attracting negative attention by casting more than a few arrows of his own — Jeb has all but guaranteed that the GOP will spend at least some of this election season refighting battles that it would prefer to have brought to a quiet conclusion.

Were he dominating in the polls — and, indeed, were he a fair prospect for the general election — this might not matter a great deal. But he is not. Rather, he is demonstrating neatly that while there is a seemingly endless supply of Bushes who are willing and able to run for president, the demand for their services has diminished to the vanishing point. Jeb’s particular combination of maximum baggage and minimum benefit is an unfortunate one at the best of times. With Donald Trump around, it’s lethal…

What good can it do the Right, I wonder, to get itself bogged down in defenses of the Iraq war?; to become embroiled in personalized debates over Middle Eastern chaos?; to hear repeated vestra culpas apropos 9/11? What benefit will conservatism derive from well-publicized spitting matches between a former president who is trying to help his brother and a new class that is trying to get away from him? How useful can it be to force younger candidates — most of whom missed the Iraq debate entirely — into the same pit as those who have already been tarnished?

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If Jeb were a better politician, a clearer thinker, or belonged to a clearer-thinking political party, the solution would be clear: run as George H.W.’s son, not George W.’s brother, just as Michael Corleone was better served emulating Vito than defending Sonny.

So long as Jeb keeps defending his big brother and evading the awfulness of his presidency, he cannot effectively lead his party, coherently critique any Democrat’s foreign policy, or win the American public’s trust in a general election. If his line is Bush “kept us safe,” then barring an attack that kills thousands in the next year, the Democratic nominee will simply respond, “Obama kept us safer.” And if he truly doesn’t understand that his brother was a catastrophic foreign-policy president, he may reunite the gang for another war of choice or two.

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You’ve had nearly a year to make your case. It isn’t working. You should pack it in

If you leave the race, it would allow the anti-Trump wing of the party to rally around someone else while also depriving Trump of his most reliable punchline, which is of course your candidacy. Given that Trump winning the nomination could foreseeably lead to the dissolution of the Republican Party, it would be a great act of loyalty if you were to cut him down by ending your campaign.

And that’s the story you can tell if you get out soon, Jeb. Your exit could be portrayed as a strategic retreat in a larger war for the GOP. You were the adult, you put ambition aside and saved your country and your party from Donald Trump. For the rest of your life, people will come up to you and tell you that you were the best president this country never had. You’ll be the premier elder statesman of the GOP, the man who retired gracefully instead of going through the expense of losing ugly…

Your problems go well beyond polling, though. For starters, you don’t seem to want the job. You’re not as politically adroit as others in the race—a charge that could never be made against McCain. And by using all that cash you’ve raised to tear down the other plausible nominees while simultaneously reminding everyone of your brother’s failed presidency, your continued presence on the campaign trail will likely wind up helping the other side.

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Establishment Republicans want Donald Trump to drop out of the race; they want Jeb Bush to stay in it to win it. Precisely the opposite needs to happen as soon as humanly possible…

Trump’s comments about Bush are an acid test for the establishment Republicans who want another Bush presidency: if Jeb can’t stop the Trump juggernaut, how will he stop Hillary’s far more powerful juggernaut? If he can’t rebut Trump on Iraq and the war on terror, how can he hope to do so against Clinton, backed by the full power of the mainstream media? The same holds true for the entire Republican field: if they can’t defeat Trump’s economic populist nonsense in a Republican primary, how can they hope to defeat the same proposals from the left? Trump should not be the Republican candidate because he’s simply not conservative – but he’s providing a stiff test for anyone who would grab the brass ring…

Jeb and the rest of the establishment cling to the slim hope that Trump will somehow implode. He won’t. Neither will Carson. If they want to stop the Trump machine, they’ll need to drop the latest Bush in favor of somebody new. And as Iowa draws closer, that inevitable inflection point does too.

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It may be too late, but early on a lot of Trump’s core support was from people who saw the Republican Establishment doing for Jeb Bush what they had done for both John McCain and even more so for Mitt Romney. The same people were lined up in the same way to try to do some sort of coronation…

I wonder what would happen if Bush walked away. The odds are he does not, but the odds are also that as long as Jeb Bush hangs on, he prevents a necessary shake up in the race for those who are anti-establishment to look again at the field. There is a psychological hold on a lot of the anti-establishment forces convinced that Bush, by virtue of his last name and perceived second coming of Romney, will walk away with the nomination if left unchecked.

If Jeb Bush goes away, so too do many of those psychological holds, barring a Bush endorsement for someone else…

Bush is, to be sure, more a victim of anti-establishment angst than a cause of it. But his continued presence in the race adds fuel to fires he did not light, but that will consume him and possibly the Republican Party. It is not fair. But it is true.

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