He didn’t look like the Unhappy Warrior. Normally he sort of bobs back and forth on the screen, shrugging out responses like a distracted mother on the playground checking her phone, or a jittery tennis player who can’t, in repose, stay still. But he was pleasant, fluid, in the moment. Maybe as fall begins, as the summer in which he was eclipsed by Donald Trump ends, he’s going to get comfortable. Maybe he had to find himself in reduced circumstances to wake up. Maybe he had to look into the abyss to realize it’s not an entitlement, it’s a battle.
We’ll see if that becomes an autumn storyline. I still don’t see it working for Mr. Bush, but with money and organization like his you don’t just disappear like Herman Cain. You stay and fight. It would be humiliating not to. So you go at Mr. Trump, maybe start having fun, maybe come to see a deeper rationale for your candidacy. At least you’re trying to stop that Vandal, that Visigoth. You have a purpose. You’re not just next in a dynasty.
They always say of candidates who aren’t so good on the stump, “But you should see him in the room!” Listen, they’re all good in the room. I’ve never seen a candidate who wasn’t. Politicians are warm-blooded animals; they come alive in groups with regular people (thank God, a normal American who’s awed to be with me!) and potential donors (thank God for money!). Jeb has always been said to be good in the office—literally sitting in the governor’s office, judging policy proposals. There he has all the sophistication and fluidity of Bill Clinton, but Mr. Clinton uses it just to talk and impress you with his range and acumen. Jeb, as governor, used information to start, end or reorder a program. Talking wasn’t an end in itself. But it’s still unclear how to translate “good in the office” into support.
Six and nine months ago at various events people would cross the room and ask me, with some urgency, “Can Jeb win the nomination?” They were so hopeful. And they were all Democrats. They wanted an alternative to Hillary. I realized Jeb is a Democrat’s idea of what a Republican contender should be. Among Republicans of course he has some supporters, but the only really rabid pro-Jebbers I’ve met the past few months are former Bush 41 and 43 ambassadors who want back in the game. Of more immediate possible import, talks with Jeb donors suggest theirs was not passion money but canny financial bets placed when he was inevitable.