In interviews this week, dozens of Bush backers and informed Republicans -- most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly -- described an overly optimistic, even haughty exploratory operation. Strategic errors were exacerbated by unexpected stumbles by the would-be candidate and internal strife within his team, culminating in a staff shake-up this week.Now, you'll say that the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, at least have a major-league roster of candidates. But how many of these guys can compete at the presidential level and do it in a way that pleases the Republican Establishment? At this point, the only people besides Bush who seem to be running remotely professional campaigns are Scott Walker (who may be too wingnutty for the non-Koch Establishmentarians), Rand Paul (who infuriates Establishment hawks, and who's struggling in the polls), and Marco Rubio (who's still not exactly setting the world on fire, even after the gift of two New York Times stories that even Jon Stewart treated as cheap shots).
The original premise of Bush’s candidacy -- that a bold, fast start would scare off potential rivals and help him overcome the burden of his last name -- has proved to be misguided.
His operation’s ability to rake in large checks also fueled inflated expectations. Supporters acknowledged this week that an allied super PAC was likely to fall short -- perhaps substantially -- of predictions that it would bring in $100 million in the first half of the year.
On the stump, Bush has stuck to his pledge not to shift to the right to win the nomination, but his middle-of-the-road positions on immigration and education have come off more as out of step with the base of his party than shrewdly pragmatic. His wonky question-and-answer exchanges with voters sometimes resemble college lectures rather than a disarming appeal for votes.
The troubles have eroded the image Bush has sought to present as the one Republican uniquely ready for the presidential stage. He has slipped in polls from presumed front-runner to one of several candidates jumbled toward the top of an increasingly crowded field.
Oh, but riding to the rescue will be ... John Kasich! Right?
Um, not if True Conservative voters have the same reaction to him as Erick Erickson:
Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the conservative website RedState.com, wrote Wednesday that Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) would only enter the 2016 GOP presidential race to “take out another Republican” like assassin John Wilkes Booth.Erickson goes on to call Kasich "a Republican who says publicly Jesus wants him to expand government.” Within the epistemically closed world of Rpublicans, there aren't many nastier insults -- and that tracks with what I found in April when I set out to discover what True Conservatives think of Kasich. (Short version: They hate him for implementing Obamacare and expanding Medicaid, they're still angry at him for backing an assault weapons ban when he was in Congress even though he's since flip-flopped on that, and they see him as squishy on immigration and taxes.)
Erickson’s comments about Kasich, who has been considering entering the race, were made in a blog post for “The Erick Erickson Show” and in an email to his subscribers.
“John Kasich does not want to be President. He wants to be the guy who scuttles the chances of other candidates,” Erickson wrote. “This isn’t a Presidential campaign, it is John Wilkes Booth acting on a debate stage until he can take out another Republican. Metaphorically speaking, of course.”
Also, he's at 2% in the polls. And he's the Establishment alternative to Jeb? Maybe the Republicans really should try drafting Bibi Netanyahu, or one of the Duck Dynasty guys, or George Zimmerman, or David Eric Casebolt. Any one of those guys could probably clear the field.