The super PAC backing Marco Rubio sees just four candidates having a shot of winning the Republican nomination. And Jeb Bush isn’t one of them.
“When you consider all angles, as we do, we believe there are really only four candidates with a reasonable chance of becoming the Republican nominee: Senator Marco Rubio, Dr. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz,” Warren Tompkins, head of the Conservative Solutions PAC, and media consultant and lead strategist Jon Lerner wrote in a memo sent out to donors, friends and supporters on Friday.
The highest-ranking official known to lose her job in Jeb Bush’s flagging campaign is Christine Ciccone, the campaign’s chief operating officer.
News of Ms. Ciccone’s departure comes a week after the Bush campaign announced a re-organization that it said would reduce payroll by 40%. Ms. Ciccone served as Mr. Bush’s chief operating officer, effectively an office administrator responsible for logistics…
Ms. Ciccone came to the campaign with political roots in the Bush family. She worked in President George W. Bush’s White House, serving as a legislative liaison to the Senate.
For the second time in the past week, Jeb Bush attempted to reassure anxious donors that his presidential campaign was still in good shape.
Bush delivered his latest glass-half-full message on a Thursday afternoon conference call, one day after Wednesday night’s admittedly sub-par debate performance, as some of his financiers worry that his move to confront one-time protégé Senator Marco Rubio backfired badly. During the short call with his top donors, Bush acknowledged the debate wasn’t his best and vowed to “improve every day,” according to one donor given anonymity to discuss the private conversation. The donor described Bush as sounding upbeat and eager to return to the campaign trail.
“I’m not a soundbite guy,” Bush told the group, referring to the debate. “I’m a substance guy.”
Two attendees at this event, described as upbeat and positive, reported that George W. Bush said Jeb can recover from his debate performance last week.
“He said that he believes in his brother, that he has a strong record, that he has it in his heart and his gut to do it,” said one major donor who attended.
Bush noted his own ability to come back after being defeated by John McCain in the New Hampshire primary in 2000.
“He said campaigns are supposed to have ups and downs,” said another attendee. “If you can’t handle the ups and downs of the campaign, you can’t handle the ups and downs of the presidency.”
[A]s Mr. Rubio and his supporters tried not to be swept up in the euphoria over his performance in Wednesday night’s debate, the mood among Mr. Bush’s supporters was despondent, with some questioning in private conversations whether the accumulation of three unsteady appearances on the same stage had finally blocked his path to the presidential nomination…
“We’ve had seven years with a divider in chief who was spectacular as a candidate, great speaker, he’s a very, very good politician,” Mr. Bush told Fox News on Thursday. “Marco’s my friend,” he added. “I admire him greatly. He is a gifted politician for sure. But I think we need to focus on who can lead, who can forge consensus, who can solve problems.”…
On a conference call with donors Thursday afternoon led by Mr. Bush, his adviser Sally Bradshaw and his national finance chairman, Woody Johnson, Mr. Bush acknowledged that he had not had a great night. “Debates are not my forte,” he said on the call, according to one listener.
Yet the contributors detected little urgency in his voice, and some were taken aback when Mr. Bush announced that he had an hour free on his schedule and was going to go work out.
Bush’s loyal supporters, including some longtime friends, were aghast at the candidate they saw on the television screens. Gone, they said, was the optimistic message of economic empowerment that was to be the foundation of his campaign. Gone, too, was the confident competitor who dominated Florida politics during his two terms as governor.
“When I see that debate, I don’t know who that man is,” Ana Navarro said on CNN. “That’s not the guy I’ve known for 25 years.”
One Bush fundraiser, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid, said the attack on Rubio “was just not the image and the right tone of the person whose campaign is built on ‘the right to rise,’ not the right to step on your protégé to get to the top.”
Rick Wilson, a Florida-based strategist unaffiliated with a candidate, said: “For weeks, the money guys were with Jeb. Last night, those people were telling me, ‘I’m calling Marco’ or ‘I’m done’ or ‘That was absurd’ or ‘I’m finished.’ ”
Bush’s own comments Thursday about lacking a “big personality” point to part of the difficulty.
So, too, does his chosen slogan — that he is a “doer,” a problem-solver who can fix things. The concept puts him out of step with many GOP primary voters who have gravitated to candidates who talk of tearing up the political system, not better managing it.
Qualities that Bush’s campaign once viewed as powerful assets — years of experience as governor of the nation’s fourth-largest state and deep family ties to the party establishment — have done little good in an environment in which Republican primary voters say, by better than 2 to 1, that they value “new ideas and a different approach” over “experience and a proven record.”
No candidate’s net favorability — the share of Republicans who view a candidate favorably minus the share who view him or her negatively — has fallen more than Bush’s since mid-June, when Bush and Donald Trump entered the race…
Bush’s net favorability has dropped 28 percentage points since mid-June, while the average candidate’s net favorability declined by just 5 percentage points.
Bush’s falling favorability is, of course, a very bad sign for his candidacy. It suggests that Bush’s fall in the horse-race polls isn’t merely due to other candidates doing better. Instead, Bush seems to be doing worse. Put another way, the more Republican voters get to know Bush, the less they seem to like him. Attacking other candidates, such as when Bush went after Marco Rubio on Wednesday night, is unlikely to solve Bush’s problem.
It is a portrait of deep frustration. Jeb Bush’s campaign has 10 paid staff members in Iowa, it has made 70,380 phone calls to state Republicans and it has collected 5,000 email addresses. For all that, it has recruited just four volunteers statewide and has identified only 1,260 supporters…
The campaign has set a goal of winning 18.45 percent of the votes on caucus night, Feb. 1. It predicts total Republican turnout will be 128,800, slightly more than in 2012. Four years ago, Rick Santorum won Iowa with 29,839 votes (Mitt Romney received 29,805 votes), but it is unclear where Mr. Bush would place in the much broader field if he somehow manages to hit his goal of almost 24,000 votes.
In any case, it is a long road from the 1,260 supporters of today to that magic number.
Bush still has millions in the bank and a last name loved by his party’s establishment. He can stay in the race for the foreseeable future if he wants to—and if Rubio struggles in the face of the onslaught of scrutiny that will now be coming his way, it’s conceivable that Bush could regain his lead in the establishment lane.
But. But! The Jeb is toast narrative will only make that more unlikely. Jeb began the year as the favorite for his party’s nomination—and, until recently, remained a favorite—exactly because the political and media establishments saw him as one. But while he benefited from that self-fulfilling prophecy, he’s now in danger of falling victim to a new one. If the establishment no longer sees him as a man who can bring order to a chaotic nominating contest, voters won’t either. The media used to present him as the smarter Bush, the more capable Bush, the Bush who should have been president. Now that’s all gone. And as Nate Silver points out, the conventional wisdom matters for Bush more than most “because Bush is running a conventional campaign.”
Bush never seemed to be enjoying life on the trail when he had the conventional winds at his back. It’s unlikely he’ll find life as an also-ran any more enjoyable. The question, then, is if he’s willing to fight on, and against the solidified narrative, from the fringes of the next debate stage. Jeb? Jeb…
The time has come for Jeb Bush to reconsider his future. He clearly does not enjoy being on the campaign trail. He is not a man for this season. He has not held elected office since January 2007, and it is showing. Worse, he is having to make the case that a third Bush is the best person to pit against the second Clinton — while on the stage with new, young faces of a Republican Party that has moved beyond the Bush legacy.
Jeb Bush should have run in 2012, but he would have even then been anchored by his last name. It is relatively unfair that Bush is anchored by his last name, but it is true. It is also true that he was once very successful politician, but that was a decade ago. Bush stands on a presidential debate stage, and we can almost hear him wondering what happened and how everything passed him by.
If Jeb Bush is not willing to fire a lot of people and retool his campaign, he needs to settle on being a former presidential candidate. Those of us who like him, whether or not he is our choice for president, hate to see a good man descending to farce and a kind man descending to has-been status.
It’s widely believed among high Jeb supporters that Mr. Trump—“The Gong Show,” as they call him—has kept Mr. Bush from rising. But Mr. Trump isn’t the problem, he was the revealer of the problem: Jeb just isn’t very good at this.
He’s not good at the merry aggression of national politics. He never had an obvious broad base within the party. He seemed to understand the challenge of his name in the abstract but not have a plan to deal with it. It was said of Scott Walker that the great question was whether he had the heft and ability to go national. The same should have been asked of Jeb. He had never been a national candidate, only a governor. Reporters thought he was national because he was part of a national family.
He was playing from an old playbook—he means to show people his heart, hopes to run joyously. But it’s 2015, we’re in crisis; they don’t care about your heart and joy, they care about your brains, guts and toughness. The expectations he faced were unrealistically high. He was painted as the front-runner. Reporters thought with his record, and a brother and father as president, he must be the front-runner, the kind of guy the GOP would fall in line for. But there’s no falling in line this year. He spent his first months staking out his position not as a creative, original chief executive of a major state—which he was—but as a pol raising shock-and-awe money and giving listless, unfocused interviews in which he slouched and shrugged. There was a sense he was waiting to be appreciated.
I speak of his candidacy in the past tense, which is rude though I don’t mean it rudely. It’s just hard to see how this can work. By hard I mean, for me, impossible.