Jeb and his team recognized the threat posed by Rubio nearly a year ago, and took aggressive action to knock him out of 2016 contention -- with some in Bush’s circle trying to smear the senator by allegedly circulating lurid, unsubstantiated rumors of infidelity.Of course, Jeb's crew didn't "take out everyone." With the exception of Romney, Jeb's crew didn't "take out" anyone.
... The same day Mitt Romney bowed out of the 2016 race -- marking the first and last real victory for Jeb’s “juggernaut” campaign -- a California bundler who was being courted by Bush’s team told me, “They’re going after Rubio next. It’s like whack-a-mole. They’re going to try to take out everyone before the primaries even start.”
But that won't prevent the GOP from allowing Jeb to keep trying, no matter what the consequences to the party's chances in 2016.
Rubio's team hired researchers who specialize in vetting the candidates they're working for, probing for possible vulnerabilities. Certain rumors persisted, but no evidence could be found that they were true. However, they continued to circulate -- spread largely by pople who claimed to like Rubio but would eventually identify themselves as Jeb supporters:
... a couple of rumors were particularly persistent in political circles.... One that reporters in Florida had repeatedly tried to run down over the years dealt with a Tallahassee politico who Rubio had supposedly taken on several romantic out-of-state trips and paid for them with the state party’s credit card. Another, even more pervasive rumor, held that Rubio was hiding a secret second family somewhere, and sending regular cash installments to support them (and keep them quiet).You can say that this is Jeb being a cutthroat pol in the storied, Corleone-esque Bush family tradition. But think about it: What the Bushes and their affiliates did to Mike Dukakis in 1988, John McCain in 2000, and John Kerry in 2004 actually worked. Those years saw Bush victories. This year, Jeb is flailing. People who've seen what he's peddling about Rubio dismiss it with contempt:
... Acting on explicit instructions, the research firm investigated the rumors and determined that they lacked concrete evidence, which was enough to give Rubio’s advisers peace of mind. But along the way, the firm encountered enough dishy Miami-Dade politicos hocking titillating gossip to fill the entire newsroom of a supermarket tabloid. The firm concluded that, in many cases, the rumors were being fanned by the same South Florida Republicans who claimed to be Rubio’s supporters.
And unfortunately for him, many of those Miami gossips would, come 2015, join the cutthroat ranks of the Jeb Bush juggernaut.
... Jeb’s messengers tried to convince a number of influential figures in political media that they had the goods on Rubio. Among these was MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. A former Republican congressman from Florida who remained tapped into the state’s politics, Scarborough was skeptical whenever somebody tried to convince him that Rubio had an explosive career-ending secret lurking in his past. “Everybody who runs against him says he has girlfriends, or financial problems. They throw a lot of shit at the wall,” Scarborough told me. “It’s the same thing from the Jeb Bush camp. They keep telling me, ‘Oh, we’ve got the thing that’s going to take him down.’ But nobody’s ever produced anything that we all haven’t read in the Tallahassee Democrat.”Marco Rubio is the best the GOP has this year. He's the only potentially strong general election candidate who could conceivably win the nomination. The party should be lining up behind him. Instead, the party appears ready to stand back and let Jeb do this to its most promising newcomer, even though the party's voters despise Jeb and will never give him the nomination.
Why is the party establishment allowing this to happen? I understand that politics has become much more "entrepreneurial" these days -- candidates (and the billionaires who own them, or at least make their super PACs possible) are now running the show, not the parties themselves. This is particularly true in the GOP.
And the result is the rise of Donald Trump (who's his own billionaire), Ted Cruz, and (thanks to a grifty and well-developed fundraising apparatus) Ben Carson. But, beyond that, the result is Jeb positioning himself as the guy no one will cross even though his presence in the race continues to damage the one candidate who's both nominatable and electable.
People who think Trump will fade rely on the poli-sci notion that "the party decides" -- mainstream donors, top elected officials, and other insiders inevitably coalesce around a plausible nominee. That should be happening with Rubio -- but, instead, the party is unwilling to tell Jeb to get the hell out of the race and stop being nothing more than a stumbling block for a better candidate. And so the party can't decide on Rubio -- and Trump, Cruz, and Carson are really grateful for that.
And speaking of party endorsements, Politico tells us that Republican members of Congress are coming around to Rubio -- or are they?
Ted Cruz has built his Senate career and presidential campaign on his willingness to stick it to the Republican establishment. And now that he’s gaining momentum in the primary, his many GOP nemeses in Congress are returning the favor by quietly coalescing behind Marco Rubio.Quoted in the piece are veteran senators John Cornyn, Dan Coats, and John Thune. All have nice things to say about Rubio (or not-nice things to say about Cruz). But not one of them has actually endorsed Rubio.
Why? Oh, this is pathetic:
Cornyn, Thune and Coats have not endorsed in the presidential primary, and lawmakers interviewed for this story said many senior Republicans do not want to embarrass long-shot presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham by endorsing Rubio while the South Carolina senator is in the race.Yes, that's right: Trump, Cruz, and Carson are winning and party muckamucks won't endorse Rubio because it might hurt Lindsey Graham's feelings. Their party is a building on fire and they're afraid to grab the phone and dial 911 because Crazy Old Grandpa isn't done using it to talk to clouds.
This party deserves Trump/Cruz 2016.