Jeb Bush to go scorched earth on ... Kasich and Rubio

Sure, it’s time for a dramatic offensive from Jeb Bush. After spending $36 million in New Hampshire, Bush and his allies ended up with a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, so there doesn’t seem to be much reason to refrain from firing everything left in the bunker in South Carolina. It’s the target selection that should get called into question:

Jeb Bush is already laying the groundwork for a brutal South Carolina campaign against establishment rivals John Kasich and Marco Rubio.

In an internal memo circulated late Tuesday evening, the campaign distributed talking points to top campaign aides and surrogates, highlighting lines of attack they plan to take against both candidates.

Politico’s Alex Isenstadt includes this nugget of self-deception and hypocrisy:

“Senator Rubio has lost momentum and has been exposed as completely unprepared to be president,” it says, repeating an argument that Bush has used frequently against Rubio.

It adds: “Rubio has demonstrated no respect for the nomination process and expects this to be a coronation.”

Er … what? If any candidate not named Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton has treated the nomination as a birthright, it’s been the Bush campaign and its super-PAC ally. They rolled up more than $100 million early in 2015 and expected everyone else to get out of the former Florida governor’s way. Since then, Bush and Right to Rise have made occasional attacks on Trump but mostly trained their fire on Rubio, a strategy that had little impact except to leave them three places behind the leader in the one state they planned to win as a springboard for the rest of the primaries. And the only reason they didn’t end up in fifth place was because Rubio stuck his foot in his mouth Saturday night, a point Rubio himself admitted a couple of hours after the polls closed.

Now Team Bush want to take aim at Rubio and Kasich rather than, you know, the man who’s actually leading the primary race — Trump. Oddly, they don’t seem concerned about Ted Cruz, even though Cruz beat them for third place in New Hampshire and won Iowa outright. Kasich beat Bush, but he’s lacking the infrastructure (for now) to make a long run in the primaries. Even in South Carolina, Rubio runs third and Kasich far in the distance at 2%, while Trump and Cruz lead and Bush remains in fourth place. Even if Bush managed to get half of all Rubio and Kasich supporters in South Carolina with this strategy, he’d only manage to be in third place while Trump and Cruz tie up more than half of the state’s Republican primary voters.

But what do we know? Spending $36 million to get 11.1% of the New Hampshire vote has given Bush momentum:

But with Rubio suddenly facing questions about his preparation for the presidency, and Kasich and Christie lacking real infrastructure to compete in South Carolina, Nevada, and beyond, Bush’s team saw an opportunity to trumpet success and momentum Tuesday night regardless of the results.

They did exactly that. With fewer than 50 percent of precincts reporting, and the tally showing Bush behind Donald Trump, Kasich, and Ted Cruz — but leading Rubio by roughly 1,000 votes — Lindsey Graham took the stage here inside Manchester Community College and declared to a modest crowd at Bush’s election night headquarters: “Bush is back because of New Hampshire! South Carolina, here we come!”

Bush himself took the stage moments later, claiming a new lease on life after being left for dead last week. “The pundits had it all figured out last Monday night when the Iowa caucuses were complete. They said that the race was now a three-person race between two freshmen senators and a reality TV star,” Bush said. “And while the reality TV star is still doing well, it looks like you all have reset the race!”

Not really, no. And even a successful barrage on Rubio and Kasich won’t reset it for Bush, either. If he won’t go after the leaders of the primary fight, why did donors give Bush and his super-PAC over $100 million at all? Seems like a lot of cash for someone who’s only interested in a bronze medal.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on June 01, 2023