We are told that Team Bush intended to “shock and awe” his rivals and potential rivals into submission. Suffice it to say it hasn’t worked. The Republican field is as crowded as ever, with a bench so deep that successful two-term governors of important states, such as Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Chris Christie, can be considered second tier. And why would “shock and awe” work when these candidates are as aware of Bush’s weaknesses as anybody else?
Now, there’s the myth of the GOP as a party run by insiders, money men, and the dark powers of the Establishment (always a capital E), who always get the candidate they want in the end. The GOP might have its rebels and its populists and its Tea Party types, but ultimately it’s McCain and Romney who get the nod, not Huckabee or Santorum. “Democrats love to fall in love, Republicans love to fall in line,” goes the proverb.
All of this creates the impression — one that certainly prevails in the Bush camp — that whatever his flaws, Bush can make it to the finish line as long as he can raise enough money, accumulate enough Establishment support, and be a good enough candidate. He may be bruised by the primary; he may tarnish the GOP brand in a fusillade of negative advertising; he may be forced to move to the right — but he’ll make it across the finish line.