If you thought last night’s surreal jab at Rubio for being pro-amnesty was a one-off thing, think again. You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Is this a good ad or not? Everyone’s going to say “TERRIBLE” because saying “terrible” is the safe bet whenever you’re describing the Bush campaign, but I dunno. Let’s look at the pros and cons. Con: It’s weird, as the 60s theme is totally, totally out of joint with the GOP electorate. This is a long way to go for a joke about Rubio’s boots. Pro: It’s striking! Not a bad thing to be when you’re trying to break through the din of campaign ads in Iowa and New Hampshire. Con: The musical reference will be lost on many voters under the age of 60 and pretty much all voters under the age of, say, 35. Imagine trying to process this ad having never heard the song on which it’s based. Pro: The Nancy Sinatra vocal mimicry is solid. And remember, it’s old people who seem to like Rubio best. This hits the elderly-flower-child-turned-late-in-life-Republican demographic where it lives! Con: It doesn’t do anything to focus the viewer’s attention on Rubio’s specific flip-flops, and the boots reference is a gag that only political junkies will get. It’s exactly the sort of thing that political consultants would laugh about while most voters say, “Huh?” Pro: Mike Murphy’s ad guys really got to bust out the FX in this one!
Erick Erickson wonders if we’re seeing Bush 2016 morph into Anyone But Rubio 2016:
It’s like Mike Murphy never had his heart into backing Bush. He just wants to beat up Marco. Seriously, the ad quality in the pro-Bush ads was terrible. Now suddenly they’re running slick ads against Rubio all over the place. The ads are at a higher production value and also being run with what looks like greater frequency.
More and more it seems to be a case of Jeb Bush’s Super PAC going off the reservation just to attack Rubio. The attacks against Donald Trump have amounted to a billboard or two while the Rubio attacks are a sustained air war by a candidate who is less and less viable by the day.
Jeb Bush, at this point, really should denounce his Super PAC. Bush is not going to be the nominee, but is getting backed by a Super PAC doing its level best to stop someone who is a potential nominee and a Bush protege. I know it is personal for Bush, who feels betrayed by Rubio, but the polling shows it was never going to be him. Too many Republicans have moved into the “anybody but Bush” camp through no fault of Bush’s. And now Bush’s team has turned to nonstop character assassination against a candidate who tried to get passed a policy Jeb Bush himself supported. Even more laughable is Bush’s campaign directly attacking Rubio for being part of the “Establishment,” which is the Old French word for “Bush Family.”
Joe Pounder, a Rubio advisor, is grumpy too:
— Joe Pounder (@PounderFile) January 12, 2016
— Joe Pounder (@PounderFile) January 12, 2016
This is part of a $3 million Super PAC ad buy attacking Rubio in Iowa and — surprise — South Carolina. You can understand the strategy of softening Rubio up in Iowa before the big vote in New Hampshire, but what’s the argument for running this in SC instead of NH, which is Jeb’s most important early state? If Jeb finishes far behind Rubio in New Hampshire, he might not even make it to South Carolina. If you’re throwing the kitchen sink at the guy, why not do in a state where you’re desperate to finish strong?
Whether a flip-flopper attack will work is also an open question when the frontrunner this year used to back all sorts of Democratic positions (and still backs some) and is/was personally chummy with the Clintons. Rubio has been attacking Cruz for weeks as a flip-flopper on legalizing illegals and lately he’s begun hammering Chris Christie as a serial opportunist on issues from abortion to immigration to guns to Common Core. (Fact check: True.) The point of this ad is to tar Rubio with the same brush — and the irony is, it’s more likely to benefit Ted Cruz in doing so than it is Jeb Bush. Cruz is the one who’s been selling himself as a staunch, principled conservative in contrast to the “moderate” immigration reformer Rubio. Team Jeb is calculating, I suppose, that if they can drive conservative fencesitters from Rubio to Cruz in Iowa and South Carolina, that’ll hold down Rubio’s overall numbers. And the more headlines there are about Rubio underperforming on election night in the early states, the more Bush can argue that he’s the only establishment candidate with the resources to stop Cruz and Trump over the long haul. There’s an informal Cruz/Bush alliance developing. In fact, if Cruz really wants to twist the knife on Rubio, he could note at the debate on Thursday night that Rubio’s gone further than even Jeb Bush has in supporting a path to citizenship for illegals rather than a path to permanent residency. Cruz and Bush would rather face each other than face Rubio. Bush, at least, is working to make it happen.