Quotes of the day

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

Though the campaign appears to be referring to the country’s intractable problems, the subtext is thick. Mr. Bush is straining to reassure donors and other supporters after another underwhelming debate performance last week and persistently low poll numbers…

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.

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Under siege after a disastrous debate performance, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush debuted a new message in his home state contrasting his “strong conservative leadership” with inexperienced rivals he warned could lead the Republican Party to disaster.

“The challenges we face as a nation are too great to roll the dice on another presidential experiment, to trust the rhetoric of reform over a record of reform,” Bush told a crowd of supporters at the Tampa Garden Club. “After seven years of incompetence, corruption and gridlock in Washington, we need a president who can fix it. I can fix it.”…

Throughout Monday’s speech, Bush spun his much-maligned debate performances as a sign of seriousness rather than a dangerous vulnerability. He mocked “candidates disguised as television critics” who were “echoing poll-tested pabulum.” His two terms as governor proved he could break gridlock, reform education, and close budget deficits, Bush said. 

“If you watched the debate, you probably came away thinking this election is about sound bites or fantasy football or which candidate can interrupt the loudest,” Bush said. “I’m here to tell you it’s not. This election is not about a set of personalities. It’s about a set of principles.”

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Bush’s unspoken message: That kind of attacking you saw in the debate is not me. I’m not good at it. I’m good at other things, and I’m going to emphasize them.

“He’s saying being angry and pessimistic is not me,” notes Bush aide Tim Miller. “It’s fair to say that he’s arguing the emphasis should be on who can do the job, and that’s where he shines, over some of this other stuff. So in that sense, it is related to the debate.”…

“The answer isn’t sending someone from one side of the capital city to the other,” Bush argued. “The solution won’t be found in someone who has never demonstrated the capacity to implement conservative ideas. And you can’t just tell Congress you’re fired, and go to commercial break.”…

But the big point is that after too many Jeb vs. Marco stories, Bush is going back to where he started, selling himself as the reform-oriented conservative governor of Florida. Yes, that was a long time ago — Bush was first elected in 1998, left office almost nine years ago, and hasn’t been a force in politics between then and now. But it’s the best case he has: fewer zingers and more of his inner wonk.

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Since the two-term Republican first began exploring a presidential bid at the beginning of the year, the Bush campaign has seen five shakeups, resets, or shifts in course. The first came just before the campaign officially began in June, when Bush tapped Danny Diaz to run the forthcoming campaign operation over David Kochel, who was long expected to take on the top role. “Diaz’s promotion is a frank acknowledgment that Bush’s six-month ‘exploratory phase’ has not met expectations and that the former Florida governor needed a new consultant to take the reins ahead of his campaign kickoff in Miami on Monday,” wrote the Washington Post on June 8. Bush officially entered the race on June 15.

Just two months later, the campaign faced another change, this time financial. On August 24, the New York Times reported that Bush officials experienced cuts in pay and that staff were told to “tighten their belts” on spending. It was minor but significant shift for the campaign, which is being supported by a super PAC that had raised a large amount of money in that quarter. But the move may have presaged the third shakeup in the campaign, this time a few days later and concerning staff. On August 29, Politico reported that three of Bush’s fundraising consultants were leaving the campaign…

And before this week’s reboot, Bush saw a fourth shakeup, this one in October. The campaign, Bloomberg reported, would be slashing staff and salaries significantly. “The campaign is removing some senior staff from the payroll, parting ways with some consultants, and downsizing its Miami headquarters to save more than $1 million per month and cut payroll by 40 percent this week, according to Bush campaign officials who requested anonymity to speak about internal changes,” wrote Bloomberg reporters Michael Bender and Mark Halperin. “Senior leadership positions remain unchanged.”

Now in November comes shakeup number five.

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he has to become a better “performer” in the debates after his showings at the first three debates were criticized by political commentators and those within his own party.

“Well it isn’t a debate, it’s a performance and I’ve got to get better as a performer,” Bush said on New Hampshire’s Concord News Radio on Monday morning. “I think that’s the better way of saying it.”…

Bush said a real debate would be a “deeper conversion” about what’s on the minds of voters, saying people were concerned about “pocketbook issues” and “national security issues” not fantasy football.

“So it’s part of the process and I’m pledging to myself to do better, cause I know a lot of people watch this and they’re informed by that part of the process,” he added.

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PPP’s newest Iowa poll finds a tight race on the Republican side in the state with Donald Trump at 22%, Ben Carson at 21%, Ted Cruz at 14%, Marco Rubio at 10%, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal each at 6%, and Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina each at 5%…

Jeb Bush is having a rough time in Iowa. Only 30% of GOP voters see him favorably to 43% with a negative opinion, giving him the highest unfavorable rating of any of the candidates in Iowa. Among those who describe themselves as ‘very conservative,’ just 25% see Bush favorably to 53% who have a negative view. One measure of how Bush-resistant GOP voters are is that in a head to head with Trump he trails 55/37. By comparison Trump loses by double digits when matched up directly with Rubi0 (51/40), Cruz (53/36), or Carson (55/35).

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Rubio’s success contrasts sharply with the fate of the other two most prominent establishment candidates. Bush, who failed to impress voters much at previous debates, had an especially dire performance this round, with nearly half of GOP voters saying it worsened their opinion of him. His scant speaking time was dominated by a failed attempt to land a jab at Rubio for his record of missing votes.

hp

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Bush supporters maintain that their candidate still has time to change the country’s impression of him.

“What people are watching right now is snippets, and it’s the most outrageous and sensationalistic,” said Juleanna Glover, a veteran of the George W. Bush White House who is connected to Jeb Bush’s campaign. “We’re not seeing the quality of each of the candidates.”

When candidates’ full town hall meetings are televised live and watched by voters in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1, Glover said, voters will appreciate Bush’s strengths.

“He doesn’t need a breakout moment. What he needs is extended coverage. I don’t know that any candidate has the same scope. They run up against their talking points pretty quickly,” she said.

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During last week’s CNBC primary debate, Bush repeatedly dinged rival Marco Rubio for missing a number of recent Senate votes, thereby ensuring that a petty and disingenuous critique that is equally applicable to every presidency-seeking legislator will henceforth be sold with the affixture “even Jeb Bush says . . . ” Meanwhile, behind the curtains, his team was busy unleashing a nasty whisper campaign against the same target, the basic gist of which is that Rubio is in possession of a “concerning” background that makes him a “risky bet.” 

That there seems to be little evidence to back up the whispers — and, indeed, that the teams charged with investigating Rubio have pushed back strongly against their substance — is immaterial. What matters is what they tell us about the state of Jeb’s mind and the integrity of his soul. As a veteran of the political world, he is keenly aware of the damage that frivolous and expedient complaints can do to a movement in the long run, especially when those complaints are accorded a partisan imprimatur. That, in a desperate attempt to obtain a marginal advantage, he has chosen to release a set of injurious and infinitely malleable allegations into the cultural bloodstream is telling. All things being fair in love, war, and politics, one would expect to see tactics such as these deployed without mercy by the GOP’s antagonists, and, perhaps, even by the more capricious among the primary season’s willful wrecking balls. But by Jeb? The adult? The gentleman? The man of foresight and patience and sobriety and joy? Having watched what the eventual losers did to Mitt Romney’s reputation in 2012, is this really the legacy he hopes to secure for himself?

In public affairs as in comedy, timing is all. Great men tend to understand instinctively when to enter, when to pause or demur, when to rush the barricades and grasp the wires, and, crucially, when to exit. All in all, there is only one thing more tragic than a good man who cannot intuit when it is time for him to leave the stage, and that is a good man who takes to the spotlight’s final beam in order to assail the other players and damn their applause. In the theater, such characters tend to be ushered kindly into the wings, amid glowing remembrances and the promise of sinecures and testimonials. In politics, no such kindness is typically forthcoming. History can be a harsh mistress, especially for those who impotently berate their own kind. A prominent last name will only shield a man for so long.

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