Florida poll: Trump leads by double digits over Rubio -- thanks to Jeb Bush

You can’t call a poll “good” for a candidate who’s trailing by 11 in his home state, but I’d say this is as good as a bad poll can be for Rubio.

It’s also an ironic inversion of Team Jeb’s theory of the race at the start of Trumpmania this summer. Back then, they thought Trump’s ascendancy would end up helping them by sucking away all of the media oxygen that more plausible challengers like Rubio and Cruz needed to get going. Turn the primaries into a Bush/Trump referendum, Team Jeb thought, and Bush will inevitably win as undecided Republicans break for the guy who seems more electable. Four months later, instead of Trump holding Rubio back from competing with Jeb, it’s actually Jeb who’s holding Rubio back from competing with Trump in their home state.

With the former Florida governor in the crowded primary for president, Trump leads with a solid 27 percent support, with Sen. Marco Rubio a distant second at 16 percent, followed by Dr. Ben Carson (15 percent), and Sen. Ted Cruz and Bush (about 12 percent each), according to Viewpoint Florida’s newly released survey of 2,047 likely Republican voters in the state.

Without Bush in the race, Trump has a problem: He gets no added benefit, but Rubio’s support jumps up so that he almost ties the frontrunner, 24-27 percent. The rest of the GOP field is essentially unchanged.

Without Rubio in the race, however, Trump’s lead ticks up a percentage point, to 28 percent. But Bush doesn’t then come in second. Instead, Carson and Cruz vie for second place and Bush remains in fourth, with 17 percent support.

Lots of Bush supporters have Rubio as their second choice but not as many Rubio supporters have Jeb as their consolation prize, which makes sense when you consider the rationales for their candidacy. If you’re a casual Bush supporter, there’s no reason not to like Rubio. They’re both from Florida, they’re similar on policy (especially immigration), and Rubio is both personally likable and excellent on the stump. (A diehard Bush supporter, if such things exist, might dislike Rubio for presumptuously deciding to run this year when it was “Jeb’s turn.”) If you’re a casual Rubio supporter, there are reasons not to like Jeb. You may be annoyed at Bush’s dynastic pretensions, you may resent how deeply indebted his candidacy has been to rich donors from the start and how he tried to bigfoot Rubio out of the race early, and increasingly you may be angry at Bush’s desperate attacks on Rubio over his missed Senate votes. All of that being so, if this turns into a “Trump versus Anybody But Trump” referendum, it’s far riskier for the anti-Trumpers to try to unite behind Jeb than to unite behind Rubio. Some anti-Trumpers are anti-Bushers too, and may be more anti-Bush than they are anti-Trump. That’s what you’re seeing in these results. Toss Rubio out of the race and his fans would rather gamble on Carson and Cruz than on the supposedly safe choice Bush. Knowing all that, when the time comes for the donor class to unite behind one center-right candidate who can take Trump on, whom do you think they’ll unite behind? Hint: It’s the guy whom they’re uniting behind already.

No worries, though. Jeb will fix it.

The much-discussed Jeb Bush campaign reset has come with an unsubtle name: the “Jeb Can Fix It” tour…

In what his team has previewed as “an important speech” on Monday about the direction of the campaign and the messages he plans to promote going forward, Mr. Bush is returning to Florida, where he served eight years as governor.

During an address in Tampa, aides say, Mr. Bush will discuss his rejection of what he calls the “competing pessimisms” of the Obama era and will cite his experience as governor overcoming obstacles to conservative overhauls. He is expected to point to examples from his new book, “Reply All,” which will be released on Monday and details his prolific email habits as governor.

He’s delivering that speech as I write this, apparently taking shots at Trump and Rubio and sounding most high-energy indeed. I don’t know why he’s speaking in Florida instead of New Hampshire, though, which is his must-win early state. The idea, I guess, is that this is a de facto campaign reboot and therefore he’s symbolically relaunching from his home state. He’s also rolling out an endorsement from the guy who served as Rubio’s chief of staff when he was speaker of the Florida house, which is probably less about making Jeb look good than making Rubio look bad. That’s of a piece with that sketchy campaign powerpoint from last week insinuating that there are skeletons in Rubio’s closer that concerned Romney’s VP vetting team (which Team Romney denies). The people who know Rubio best, Team Jeb is implying, would rather not have him as nominee. Okay, but as the poll shows, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want Bush instead.

Here’s Jeb on “Meet the Press” yesterday pretending that he had nothing to do with the powerpoint. Exit question: What if he dropped out of the race … and ran for Rubio’s Senate seat?

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Jazz Shaw 1:01 PM on April 01, 2023