I used to feel bad for Jeb because he was so overmatched in his war of words with Trump, but Trump doesn’t bother much with him now that he’s faded in the polls. Lately I feel bad for him because no matter how far he falls and how much people goof on his struggles, he and his team seem dead set on staggering on to New Hampshire. His ads may be ineffective and his media appearances may be completely overshadowed by Trump’s, but there’s simply no way Bushworld will accept the humiliation of quitting the race before any votes have been cast. Somehow, some way, in the final week before New Hampshire votes, Republicans there are going to cast away Rubio, Christie, and Kasich and decide that Bush was the guy they were looking for all along. That’s their plan for victory (or a top three finish at least), as near as I can tell. I wonder, though, how much of that attitude is honestly shared by Jeb himself and how much of it is being impressed upon him by the Bush family and their constellation of donors and consultants, starting with Super PAC chief Mike Murphy. I’ve started to think of Jeb as an old horse pulling a cart packed with people up a hill. They keep flogging him because, if only as a matter of pride, they’re sure he can make it to the top. They trained him; they’ve made this hill with other horses before; they know they can do it. And meanwhile, it’s obvious to everyone else watching that not only aren’t they going to make it this time, they’re killing the horse in insisting that he try.

Unhitch the cart and let this poor guy go home, for cripes sake.

The group, Right to Rise, has already gone through nearly half of the $103 million it brought in during the first half of the year, records show. It raised only about $13 million in the five months that followed, according to a person familiar with the figure.

That leaves the super PAC with around $67 million heading into the first 2016 nominating contests. The sum still surpasses the resources of rival groups, but it is not clear whether Right to Rise’s financial might — viewed earlier this year as Bush’s distinct advantage — will be enough to help separate him from the pack…

Despite the gusher of door-hangers, mailers, online ads and TV spots produced by Right to Rise, however, Bush now hovers between 3 and 5 percent in national polls — down from 12 to 15 percent in mid-July.

In Iowa, where Right to Rise has spent nearly $9.4 million since late June, Bush remains stalled in single digits there. After the group blanketed New Hampshire with $18.5 million worth of TV ads and yard signs touting Bush, he dropped from double-digit standing to between 5 and 9 percent support. And in South Carolina, the former governor has fallen out of the top three GOP presidential contenders, despite a $6.5 million super PAC barrage on his behalf.

Here’s what $50 million in spending gets you. The black line represents Jeb’s favorable rating, the red line his unfavorable:

fav

The coup de grace for Jeb 2016, I think, is Christie’s small but important surge in New Hampshire over the last few weeks. If Bush’s only competition there was Rubio and Kasich, you can sort of see if you squint hard how Jeb might think late deciders would break for him. Kasich has declined in the state and seems to annoy people more after each debate. Rubio’s age and lack of executive experience might weigh heavily on voters trying to decide between him and Jeb if Bush looks like he stands a chance of winning. With Christie rising, though, and growing more popular after his debate appearances, it’s hard to imagine how Bush elbows him and Rubio out of the way in the last few days to become the consensus choice of anti-Trumpers. But this is ultimately a chicken-and-egg thing. Is Bush doomed because Christie is catching on or is Christie catching on because Bush seems doomed? New Hampshirites have had a long look at Jeb thanks to Right to Rise’s ad campaign. And yet Bush is at six percent in one of the last few polls taken in the state and five percent in another.

Here’s the story of the whole campaign in two ads. The first is Right to Rise’s new spot about national security; the second is something some Trump staffer threw together and posted on Instagram. Which one is more memorable? Exit question: Today Scott Walker called on Republican candidates to drop out of the race in the name of consolidating the center-right against Trump — but he didn’t say which ones. The whole problem in New Hampshire is that Rubio, Bush, Christie, and even Kasich are banking on late-deciders to flock to them, which means they all have a strong incentive to hang in there. If Walker wants to clear the field for an anti-Trumper, isn’t he obliged to say which anti-Trumper that should be? You don’t solve a prisoner’s dilemma by pointing out that someone should eventually defect.

Thank you Jeb Bush- you finally get it!

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