CNN: Jeb's in free fall, you know

Allahpundit touched on this in his earlier analysis of the CNN/ORC poll released this morning, but CNN devoted an entire story to Jeb Bush’s “free fall” in their polling. Bush, who entered the race with a massive fundraising advantage, not only hasn’t managed to hold his spring lead in this race, but now he’s bottoming out near Rand Paul’s level. However, describing this trend in the headline as a “free fall” is at least an overstatement, if not a wild exaggeration:

Bush is now polling at 3% — and dropping.

The 3% figure puts Bush in sixth place in the national GOP race, according to the CNN/ORC poll released Friday morning. It’s the latest insult and disappointment for Bush, a son and brother of presidents, the conservative former two-term governor of Florida and the man who started the race as the unquestioned establishment favorite. …

Bush has struggled to gain traction and settle on a distinctive message to set him apart from his Republican opponents. He has often said that elections are about the future, but his major accomplishments happened more than a decade ago. And vowing to be his own man who isn’t tied to the politics and policies of his older brother, George W. Bush, Jeb Bush has also said his family ties give him insights into foreign policy while his campaign brought on advisers from the old days.

Even in the CNN/ORC series, Bush hasn’t scored in double digits for almost four months, in their mid-August survey when he attracted 13% for a second-place finish. Bush then got 9% in both September surveys and 8% in October, before dropping to 3%.  That more or less mirrors his decline in the RCP average of polls too, gliding down from 9% in September to 4.8% in three months.

It’s not a free fall, in other words. Carly Fiorina experienced a free fall, dropping from 11.8% in late September to 3% by the beginning of November, a sharp drop that didn’t correspond to any known gaffe or policy statement. Voters warmed up to Carly but quickly set her aside. Scott Walker similarly suffered a free fall in the summer, plunging from a peak of 13.7% in late July to barely registering at all by mid-September. Bush has just steadily declined as he has failed to connect with voters.

Some of that is definitely due to a reluctance to offer up another Bush as the party’s standard-bearer, and not a reflection on Jeb himself. But most of it comes from the sense that Jeb is part of the past, a governor with a good track record whose last run for office was 13 years ago, and shows it. Voters want to see fresh faces and fresh approaches, or in some cases want a leader who will give vent to their frustrations with the status quo in the GOP. Bush, whether he realizes it or not, sounds like a candidate who wants to return to a status quo ante rather than provide a new approach and direction. Having gathered a large number of old-guard donors to build the war chest is a liability in this case — and at least proves that money alone can’t guarantee a positive outcome for influencers.

The big question from this poll and others in the last couple of weeks, where Bush hasn’t scored above 6% in any poll since the end of October, is when to say enough is enough. Bush’s donors were promised that his performance would improve and that his new aggressive strategy against Marco Rubio would revive his flagging fortunes, but if anything, things have gotten worse. When do they start pulling out and looking for a new standard-bearer? If they want to make an impact on the race, it had better be sooner rather than later, because right now their money isn’t buying anything but failure. Just like the idea of a free-fall, Bush’s legitimacy as a contender in this race has been vastly oversold from the beginning.