The cash-rich group aiding Jeb Bush’s White House run has filmed a provocative video casting his rival Marco Rubio as ultimately unelectable because of his hard-line stand against abortion....This comes from a New York Times story about Jeb's plans for an all-out assault on Rubio. Last night on Twitter, commenters were focusing on the fact that Jeb is telegraphing his punches again, just the way he telegraphed an attack on Rubio before the last debate. (Rubio anticipated the punch and knocked Jeb to the canvas.)
Any attacks on Mr. Rubio would come primarily from Right to Rise, the “super PAC” that has raised more than $100 million for Mr. Bush. Its top strategist, Mike Murphy, refused to detail its strategy but did not dispute that Mr. Rubio was in its sights.
In an attempt to blunt Mr. Rubio’s appeal and showcase a potential vulnerability against the Democratic nominee in the general election, Mr. Murphy recently showed some Republicans a video portraying Mr. Rubio as too extreme on abortion. A longtime opponent of abortion rights, Mr. Rubio said in a debate in August that he had “never advocated” laws that would allow abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.
But I'm amazed at the content of the attack. Jeb thinks he's going to win the Republican contest by portraying Rubio as too hard-line on abortion? Okay, maybe Jeb is threatening to run these ads in New Hampshire -- but he does know that they have the Internet in Iowa, doesn't he? Iowa, where 60% of Republican caucus goers described themselves as evangelical in 2008, and 57% did in 2012? If Jeb runs this ad in New Hampshire, does he think they won't see it in Iowa? Or South Carolina? Or Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, which are all voting a month after Iowa? And even if this is just an idle threat, does he think evangelicals aren't reading this Times article right now?
Oh, but this strategy isn't just suicidal, it's incoherent:
Right to Rise held focus groups in New Hampshire shortly after the Oct. 28 Republican debate, in which, among other things, the participants were quizzed about Mr. Rubio’s missed [vote] on ... cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood....Jeb's hoping to attack Rubio for being too extreme on abortion and for missing the Planned Parenthood vote? And he doesn't see the contradiction?
Rubio, for his part, may not be reacting to this very shrewdly:
Whether or not the onslaught ever materializes, Mr. Rubio and his team are bracing for it and preparing to counter it by sifting through hours of video footage for instances in which Mr. Bush spoke about Mr. Rubio as an admiring ally, not a political foe.Why would Rubio want to run ads in which he's praised by the most despised candidate in the race? A guy who (unlike Rubio) is increasingly loathed the longer he's in the race, as a new McClatchy-Marist poll notes?
Republicans voters by 67-20 percent say the more they hear about Carson, the more they like him rather than dislike him. The same voters by 58-27 percent say the same of Rubio, and by 51-31 percent of Cruz....The folks in Rubio's campaign are warning the Bushies not to launch these attacks -- or maybe they're using reverse psychology and trying to induce the attacks (which I think would be the smart strategy, considering how much GOP voters hate Bush):
Republicans by 58-32 percent say the more they learn about Bush, the less they like him. Voters in every demographic group felt similarly.
They are also telegraphing a warning that has already reached many of Mr. Bush’s donors: Such an assault, they argue, would be beneath the dignity of the Bush name.Of course, such a campaign wouldn't besmirch the Bush name -- it would be quintessential Bush. The Willie Horton campaign against Mike Dukakis, the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, the whisper campaign about John McCain's alleged secret black child in 2000 -- the Rubio attacks are mild by comparison.
And that's what's makes all this so painful to watch. Jeb thinks he has to do this or he'll lose face in his family -- and we know from something Jeb said at a recent New Hampshire campaign appearance how much real estate Poppy has occupied in Jeb's head over the years:
Jeb on George HW: "All he would have to say is 'I'm disappointed in you' and it would send me into a deep spiraling depression for days"— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) November 4, 2015
Jeb, grow up. Be your own man. You don't have to keep doing this.