I've come back to discover that Jeb Bush is ... the new Hillary Clinton? She was the election's punching bag, the candidate who couldn't do anything right, but she had a fine debate, Kevin McCarthy said out loud what everyone knew about the politicization of the Benghazi committee but no one in the mainstream wanted to acknowledge, and now she's survived a day of questioning from that committee, Joe Biden's not running against her, and the fatal faceplant we're all waiting for is Jeb's.
Jeb thinks he knows what voters want to hear, and he gets it almost right, then he puts his foot in his mouth, yet it seems clear he's trying to convey an impression of himself that's exactly the opposite of how he actually comes off:
I’m not sure Jeb helped himself ... with some extremely revealing remarks he made at a rally in South Carolina. As tweeted by Jake Tapper, here’s what he said:In the first part of that, Jeb is nearly there -- and yet he really isn't. If this is an election about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, I don’t want any part of it: That's very similar to the rallying cry of the zealots -- but what they mean is: "We've got an extreme talk radio/Breitbart/RedState agenda and we're sick of seeing it fail to become law just because Establishment Republicans in power positions obsessed over some silly math that says we don't have enough votes to get what we want. We should get what we want anyway!" But what Jeb actually seem to be saying is: "We should work with Democrats to enact stuff." (I don't think he actually would, but never mind.) Jeb almost keeps it vague enough to fool his party's primary voters, and maybe this talk works in New Hampshire, where the primary voters are fairly moderate, but the wording just isn't vague enough. The zealots want no compromise, and they know compromise is what he's promising.
If this is an election about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, I don’t want any part of it. I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people are literally in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.
And then he completely loses it: I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that. He's trying to make a point about trash talk not solving our problems, but he and every other conventional candidate in the GOP race should have figured out a month or two ago that their electorate wants to hear trash talk out of an enormous sense of frustration, earned or otherwise. (To some extent we're all frustrated, but GOP voters are frustrated because they think they should be able to get everything they want, even though they lost the last two presidential elections and don't have overwhelming congressional majorities.)
Beyond that, Jeb seems to be trying to make a very Bushy point about noblesse oblige and service to country. In any election cycle, this would have been a bad way to put it -- you can say you feel called to service and imply you have other options because of your privileged status, but you can't whine about it. Even Trump gets this right -- he's said he just felt the country was in a such a bad state he felt he had no choice but to run. This is always nonsense, but it can work if said right. Jeb says it all wrong.
Is Jeb going to drop out? I see he's trimming campaign costs, though he's denying that the campaign is in trouble. Me, I don't want him to go. I look at the national race and the races in Iowa and New Hampshire and assume that if Jeb drops out, Marco Rubio will get the vast majority of his voters and make it a real horse race with Trump and Carson. I don't want that. Rubio has an excellent chance of winning a general election against Hillary Clinton.
But I think Jeb will stay in and continue to fight Rubio, Cruz, Kasich, and Fiorina for third place, thus clearing the way for a two-man nomination fight between Carson and Trump. That makes me happy. The longer the others stay in, the more likely a much less electable Trump or Carson is to win the nomination.
I think Jeb will stay in because he's talking like this:
Addressing the concern that his campaign is falling apart, Bush responded, “Blah blah blah blah, that’s my answer, blah blah blah.” He further dismissed the idea by jokingly referring to the ‘presidencies’ of Herman Cain, Hillary Clinton, and Rudy Giuliani, candidates who led polls early in their respective campaigns only to fall behind by the primary election. “October is not when you elect people, it’s February, and then you move into March and we have a campaign that is designed to win,” said Bush.He thinks he has "a campaign that is designed to win." I think he has the kind of campaign that could have won a primary race years ago, but not this year. But his failure to understand that will keep him in for a long while.
I also suspect it's something he has to plug away at in order to save face within his family. As The New York Times tells us today, Poppy Bush, 91 and wheelchair-bound, is obsessed with the race. He's the patriarch of a family that's famous for being fiercely competitive at trivial things, like horseshoes. Remember, Dad won a presidential race in 1988 after trailing by 17 points just after the Democratic convention. It's a quitters-never-win kind of family (though the persistence is usually accompanied by the employment of amoral attack dogs like Lee Atwater, Roger Ailes, and Karl Rove, an approach Jeb isn't taking yet).
So I don't think Jeb will drop out until he loses the Florida primary, and that's more than a dozen contests in. That's excellent news for Carson and Trump -- and, ultimately, for America.