The last time Jeb Bush and his team telegraphed a punch, Marco Rubio humiliated Jeb on the debate stage after a fumbled attack. This time Rubio’s not even waiting for the debate. Rubio’s team has put together a number of instances in which his former mentor assured the public that not only is Rubio ready for the Senate, but also for leadership in the Republican Party, and “a good president” to boot:
Not only did Team Jeb telegraph the next punch, they did Rubio a favor by sending the telegraph to the most establishment outlet in the mainstream-media universe … again. The New York Times reported yesterday, based on sources within Team Jeb, that a $20 million assault would be forthcoming:
And the group’s chief strategist has boasted of his willingness to spend as much as $20 million to damage Mr. Rubio’s reputation and halt his sudden ascent in the polls, according to three people told of the claim.
Seething with anger and alarmed over Mr. Rubio’s rise, aides to Mr. Bush, the former Florida governor, and his allies are privately threatening a wave of scathing attacks on his former protégé in the coming weeks, in a sign of just how anxious they have become about the state of Mr. Bush’s candidacy.
Their looming problem: In trying to undercut Mr. Rubio as unaccomplished and unprepared, Mr. Bush is a flawed messenger. Over the years he has repeatedly, and sometimes lavishly, praised the younger lawmaker, often on camera.
In one of many such tributes, Mr. Bush declared in a 2012 television interview that Mr. Rubio had “the intellectual acumen and the fortitude to be a good president.”
Team Rubio has gone on offense over this planned attack, hammering Jeb’s contention that he will present a “joyful” face for the GOP:
After the New York Times reported that the pro-Bush super PAC Right to Rise USA has filmed an attack video claiming Rubio’s hard-line stance on abortion makes him unelectable and its top strategist has shown a willingness to unleash as much as $20 million worth of ads targeting the Florida senator, Rubio’s campaign tried to turn the group’s plans to its advantage by raising money off of them.
“And they’re bragging about that? How is that the kind of ‘joyful’ campaign that Jeb claimed he wanted to run?!?!” writes Rubio campaign manager Terry Sullivan in the e-mailed solicitation for campaign contributions. Sullivan’s reference is to Bush’s well-documented desire to campaign “joyfully.”
Forget about joyfulness. What about competence? This is the second time that Team Jeb has telegraphed its punches, and the second time it has run to the New York Times to do so. It’s almost as if Jeb Bush is trying to shore up Rubio’s outsider cred in the GOP primary. They couldn’t do a better job of it if they tried. Instead of hitting Rubio where he might be vulnerable — the Gang of Eight immigration plan, which Rubio has disavowed — they’re attacking him on the silly side issue of his attendance record, an attack which has already flopped, and on his lack of experience in an anti-establishment environment.
Twenty million dollars buys a lot of ads, but not a lot of common sense, it seems. Just imagine this kind of strategy being employed in the White House. At least we get to ask the question of just how a candidate and his supporters can “seethe with anger” joyfully. That’s a neat trick.
Here’s a strategy suggestion: Why not just endorse Rubio instead? At this point, it might actually do more damage to Rubio than anything Jeb and his supporters have tried up to this point.