Jeb Bush: I've got a lot of other cool things I could be doing instead of negative presidential campaigning

In case you missed it over the weekend, via Mediaite, here’s the most noteworthy soundbite of the campaign to date from Jeb. What he’s trying to do here is draw a contrast with Trump: He’s the sunny, substantive candidate who wants to talk about the issues — the “joyful tortoise” — whereas the ogre Trump wants to turn the campaign into a battle royal. If you care about policy and your country’s future, the choice, per Jeb, is clear. He sounds far more petulant than he needs to here in making that point, though. The bit about having other “cool things” he could be doing and the admission that he’s “miserable” having to play a game of attack and counterattack supports the suspicion that Bush is a reluctant candidate who only decided to run because he thought the primaries would be a cakewalk. After all, the last time a Bush faced a truly formidable challenge in a presidential primary was 1980. When Jeb announced his exploratory committee last winter, most people thought his candidacy would force Rubio to cancel his plan to run this cycle. Trump was expected to flirt with running again but to ultimately pass, as he’s done before, or to become a marginal joke/protest candidacy even if he jumped in. The only serious foreseeable threat to Team Bush early on was Scott Walker and they figured they could ultimately bury him in attack-ad money.

Jeb had every reason to think he could run and win as a “joyful tortoise.” Ten months later, he’s miserable and all of Bushworld is grumpy about it. Including and especially the patriarch:

In July, even after breaking a vertebra in a fall that left him hospitalized in Maine, the elder Mr. Bush was fuming at the news of the day: Mr. Trump had belittled Sen. John McCain of Arizona for being taken prisoner in Vietnam.

“I can’t understand how somebody could say that and still be taken seriously,” said Mr. Bush, himself a naval aviator in World War II, according to his longtime spokesman, Jim McGrath, who had visited him…

Contempt for Mr. Trump runs deep in the clan. Two people interviewed, who are in direct communication with the elder Mr. Bush but requested anonymity to avoid betraying a confidence, said Mr. Trump had revived painful memories among the Bushes of another blunt populist: H. Ross Perot. The family has long believed Mr. Perot’s third-party candidacy helped Bill Clinton capture the White House from Mr. Bush in 1992…

“He is throwing shoes at the TV when his son gets attacked and insulted by our favorite candidate,” Jeb Bush joked, referring to his father and Mr. Trump, at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.

Think about how many times, in how many different ways, Jeb has been humiliated over the past four months. Embarrassing polls. Ominously poor third-quarter fundraising. Trump needling him constantly about being “low energy” and now about needing “mommy and daddy” to bail him out of his current campaign predicament with that donor summit in Houston this weekend. He can’t even console himself with the idea that he’s pushing a policy vision that would otherwise go unrepresented if he weren’t in the race; he and Rubio overlap too much for that. And now, amid all the bad news, he’s got every grassroots conservative in America (plus a lot of pro-Trump/anti-Bush moderates) on “Bush campaign death watch”, which, if it happens and Jeb drops out, will be treated by righty populists as the GOP equivalent of blowing up the Death Star. No wonder the guy’s miserable. One more bad debate on Wednesday and he’s probably done — not because he doesn’t have enough money to go on but because he’s already had way more aggravation than he signed up for.

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