RIP Jeb 2016 Chances

Clarke Fox, Staff Writer

After a perfunctory performance in the third GOP debate, Jeb Bush was left scratching his head and wondering what might have been. Before taking the debate stage on the campus of University of Colorado, Boulder, Bush’s campaign knew that he needed to hit the debate out of the park to inject life back into a once-spirited campaign. What he got instead was a swing and a miss.

Bush’s performance lacked the passion and vitality of a winning candidate, and instead exuded desperation and nervousness. His choreographed attack on Sen. Marco Rubio that he is skipping out on Senate votes backfired badly, illustrating his inability to land a punch or withstand an attack. Other candidates seized the opportunity and had big moments in the debate. Sen. Ted Cruz brought the house down when he scorned the moderators and the “liberal media” for pitting the candidates against each other. Rubio hopped on the attack-the-liberal-media bandwagon and levied an attack on the coverage of Hillary Clinton’s testimony before the Benghazi Select Committee in his big moment of the night. Bush’s big moment of the debate came when he let us know that his fantasy football team is 7-0. Woof.

So, how did we get here? Not long ago, Bush was the darling of the GOP establishment. Sure, he had a familiar name, but so did the Democrats. Bush had the money, the backing, and the political skill to serve as standard-bearer for the Republican Party in 2016–or so we thought. In the first two GOP debates, Bush spoke the second-most of any candidate onstage, behind the loud-mouthed front-runner Donald Trump. In last week’s third GOP debate, though, he spoke the second-least of all candidates onstage. To say his campaign has lost some momentum would be akin to saying California has a small water problem. Republican political operatives and the media agree: the Bush campaign is on life support.

In the wake of his calamitous debate performance, Bush backers and donors can be found wringing their hands nervously, thinking back to the good old days of George W. Once a Republican front-runner, he has seen his lead in the polls vanish into the Florida sunset. On July 13, Bush sat comfortably in first place in an average of national polls, at 17.8 percent. Scott Walker came in second at a distant 9.8 percent, and Trump had not yet caught fire, coming in at 9.3 percent. Today, he has slipped to fifth in most polls. His 6.6 percent is dwarfed by Trump’s 27 percent.

The Bush presidential campaign’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) Christine Ciccone announced soon after the debate that she was calling it quits. Questions are being asked and excuses being made for Bush’s free-fall. While the presence of Trump has seized much of the oxygen in the race, he is not to blame. Neither is the anti-establishment groundswell of GOP voters, those who are backing candidates like Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Trump. Quite simply, Bush just isn’t good at this. And he is not the happy-go-lucky candidate he claims to be. He is short-tempered, gaffe-prone, and jaundiced. While he might share his brother’s propensity for the occasional gaffe, he does not share his charm. Perhaps that is why Jeb has recruited George to join him on upcoming campaign visits. How ironic.

At the outset, Bush did everything he could to distance himself from his last name and any association with his brother’s administration. He even dropped “Bush” from his campaign logo. Now, it’s George who is being called to save his baby brother’s campaign. It’s no secret that the Republican base and party elites are souring on Bush. With the fourth GOP debate slated for Nov10, the Bush campaign knows that he will have to rebound from the third debate to fend off the existential crisis that awaits him if he has a repeat performance.

In an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, Bush eloquently acknowledged his need to improve: “I know that I got to get better at doing the debate.”

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