Bush family’s Jeb! runs into problems

Published 8:37 am Thursday, November 5, 2015

By Dave McNeely

Face it: a good dynasty can be a hard thing to keep alive. And that seems to have befallen the presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Bush’s performance in a GOP presidential debate Wednesday (Oct. 28) on CNBC would make the term “lackluster” seem like a compliment.

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Bush tried to criticize his former protégé, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for missing Senate votes while he’s out campaigning for president.

“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term, and you should be showing up to work. I mean, literally, the Senate — what is it, like a French work week? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?

“You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” Bush continued. “There are a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck in Florida as well, they’re looking for a senator that will fight for them each and every day.”

But Rubio was ready. He said Bush has said he’s going to match the “furious comeback” of Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain in 2008, who rebounded to win the New Hampshire primary and went on to win the GOP nomination.

“Well, let me tell you,” Rubio challenged. “I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”

Ouch! Not a good night for The Dynasty.

Bush is languishing in the single digits, partly due to outsider reality show host and real estate magnate Donald Trump’s Insult-A-Thon of other candidates, including Jeb!, hogging all the media attention.

Jeb! recently has been forced to slash salaries for his campaign staff, and let many of them go. His chief operating officer left the campaign soon after the debate.

The dynasty thing sort of got undermined by the family matriarch more than two years ago. Back in the spring of 2013, when the buzz was that the former governor of Florida might try to be the third Bush within two decades to occupy the White House, his mom rained on his parade.

At the opening of W’s presidential library in Dallas, on April 25, 2013, she said on the “Today” show there was no reason to prolong the Bush reign.

“I think it’s a great country,” Mrs. Bush said. “There are a lot of great families, and it’s not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified, and we’ve had enough Bushes.”

She did say that Jeb certainly had the stuff to be president.

“He’s the most qualified,” she said, “but I don’t think he’ll run.”

She eventually backed off from her remarks in January of 2014, and in February of 2015, reversed them. She sent out emails urging people to contribute to her son’s “Right to Rise” Super-PACs.

Jeb! helped those PACs raise more than $100 million. They are not supposed to coordinate directly with his campaign. But they can run more generic ads that promote his candidacy, and help with things like voter turnout.

Even though Bush’s fundraising for his actual campaign has lately been anemic, the presumption has been that the Super-PACs will keep him in the game, despite the staff cutbacks.

But some prospective donors that were holding off to see how the campaigns were shaking out, reportedly are beginning to look elsewhere.

This is a serious problem for the Bush brand. His appeal was the presumed inevitability of Jeb! being the person to beat because of his name, being from a big swing state, and the ability to raise huge amounts of money. He had a presumed bandwagon because he was presumed to have a bandwagon.

But he’s a rusty campaigner. It’s a dozen years since his last campaign, for re-election as governor in 2002. Once the inevitability no longer is inevitable, potential supporters are looking for other candidates – like Rubio – to carry the banner against the outsiders, Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Bush’s Super-PAC Right to Rise USA recently reserved a week of TV in Texas in February, for $6.1 million, before the March 1 primary.

Over the weekend following the debate, Bush’s campaign said it was changing its slogan from “Jeb!” to “Jeb Can Fix It.”

That immediately raises the question: does he mean the country, or his campaign? He probably has to fix the campaign to ever get a chance to fix the nation.


Contact McNeely at davemcneely111@gmail.com or 512/458-2963.