Jeb Bush is just getting in the way of viable non-Trump candidates

(Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg)

(Luke Sharrett / Bloomberg)

After slogging through Iowa and New Hampshire for months, the Republican campaign is about to pick up the pace and some warmth, hoping to head south for a winner.

He pledges to press on, but the early states made it clear Jeb Bush will not be that winner. Not only that: If Bush wants the nominee to be anyone but Donald Trump, as he’s indicated, the best thing he could do is drop out.

Both Trump and Ted Cruz arrive in South Carolina with a victory in tow. Between the two of them they won 52 percent of the GOP vote in Iowa and 47 percent in New Hampshire. In the modern era of party primaries, no candidate from either major party has won the nomination without placing in the top two of either of those states. Only Cruz, Trump and John Kasich did that.

While Cruz and Trump fight for one half of the primary electorate, Kasich is far from being in control of the other half. Marco Rubio appeared on his way to leading it before a damaging — if overblown — debate misstep dropped him to a fifth-place thud in New Hampshire. I don’t know if he can get back on his feet, but he was sturdy enough before that late gaffe that he has a shot.

Bush, on the other hand, has stumbled the whole way. A disastrous showing in Iowa (sixth place, just under 3 percent) meant he had to close strong in New Hampshire. Some of his local supporters suggested to me before Tuesday night that Bush needed to be top three in the Granite State and ahead of Rubio. He beat his fellow Floridian but was only in fourth place, behind Cruz, whom he’d outspent there by some $36 million to $580,000. That’s 62-to-1.

In fact, Bush’s main edge throughout the campaign has been his fund-raising clout. But his pace has fallen off sharply in recent months, bringing in barely $7 million in the last quarter of 2015. At the same time, he’s burned that money to no effect. At $70.4 million spent for a total of four delegates, out of 1,237 needed for the nomination, Bush is on a pace that would require him to spend $21.8 billion — that’s billion with a B — to win.

While he certainly could be more efficient, to believe he could certainly start reeling off wins is to believe voters will suddenly start responding to him in a way they have not yet, anywhere.

If Rubio’s path to victory requires a big bounce-back, Kasich’s path is hard to make out. But having placed second in New Hampshire he could at least conceivably hope to get a similar response in such states as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont (March 1), Maine (March 5), and Michigan (March 8) before the race gets to his home state of Ohio and nearby Illinois on March 15. It’s a narrow path, but at least it involves replicating an actual result.

Bush has neither path. All he might do is stand in the way of the other two, leaving the nomination to Trump unless Cruz can stop him. Bush hasn’t been in the top four of national poll averages since late October. At one stop in New Hampshire he had to ask people to clap; in his post-primary pep talk to supporters Tuesday he felt compelled to say, “This campaign isn’t dead.”

If you find yourself saying something like that, it probably just means you’re the last to know.

Reader Comments 0

23 comments
Starik
Starik

There's an interesting documentary showing on PBS on the life and assassination of President Garfield - the convention that nominated him was one that began with no candidate with a majority of votes... and Garfield had exactly one.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I am not quite sure why Rubio, jeb, and Kasich keep up this vicious fight for 2nd loser.  Seems their strategy to be the option to Trump is going to be wasted, if he has all the momentum and has won all the primaries through the SEC Mar 1 primaries.  Seems if they were serious about winning the nomination,  they would try to win one of these primaries.  To do so they need to take on Trump and not each other.  If one actually emerges, how do they claim to be the alternate to Trump, when they still trail Ted Cruz?  I think all three have lost sight of what the mission is; they seem just to enjoy the fight.  I think all three like the attention and will stay in through FL, and if Rubio and jeb lose in FL and remain in the race, they will have sacrificed their dignity and will be just punchlines at that point.


If Bloomberg actually wanted to win the prize, he would run as a Democrat, as the competition there is between the inevitable one (not sure if she the inevitable nominee or the inevitable felonious candidate) and a socialist.  That lane looks wide open.  Bloomberg is just looking for attention and a pulpit, if he  eschews the Dem nomination and runs as an independent.

lvg
lvg

Help is on the way. W says he will campaign for Jeb! Maybe he will do appearances in disguise. Please no shoe throwing.

Starik
Starik

Bush's campaign was sunk by the performance of his brother, and his failure to repudiate that performance. "He kept us safe." Bull. And then there's Terry Schiavo...

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Starik

Why repudiate W when Obama has been worse (and Hillary promises more of the same)?

Higher spending, higher deficits, higher unemployment, more in poverty, huge and growing student loan bubble, more companies moving their jobs offshore due to liberal fascist policies...

Starik
Starik

@Lil_Barry_Bailout @Starik Higher spending to recover from the Bush Recession, while having to spend to replace the equipment and people destroyed in Iraq. That was necessary. The rest of your post is pure fantasy.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

I think its interesting how many pundits want to deny the people the right to choose.  If I were Donald Trump I would have something very colorful to say to Wingfield, the "establishment" trying to clear the field and all the other pundits telling people to get out so early.  There's plenty of time to drop out after Super Tuesday.  The only one who really needs to drop out is Jim Gilmore (yes he's still in it after 12 votes in Iowa and 120+ in New Hampshire).  If you use this argument against Jeb, you could use it against Cruz, Rubio and Kasich too.  In fact, everybody but Trump.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

Wingfield repeating the Rubio/Trump camp talking points.  Both are desperate to get Bush out because they know he can beat them.  As for Kasich-get real!  Ignoring 19 states and the next 1000 of the 2500 delegates up for grabs in order to win Michigan IS a strategy.  But it is not a strategy to win the nomination.  Rubio is an inexperienced empty suit.  At least that is all he will show us.  He won't take responsibility for the gang of 8.  He won't say much other than smooth feel good talking points.  He's just a politician who's only argument is that he thinks he can win.  And he admires the Obama approach as Divider in Chief.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@Kyle_Wingfield @xxxzzz Then let the people vote.  I don't think too many of the people who would support Kasich/Bush/Christie would have much enthusiasm for Rubio.  We really should consider, after 8 years of Obama, who would be a good president as the primary criteria, not hypotheticals.  If there is one thing clear about this year its that precedents don't matter and that its very unpredictable.  If Bush and Kasich are out, I may well go for Cruz over Rubio.  I don't think either would be good presidents, but I'm inclined to think Cruz would make better decisions in a dangerous world.  I would rather not have Rubio's finger on the red button.  I sure don't want Trump's.  Hillary would forget to plug it in and Bernie would give it to Putin.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@xxxzzz If I thought Bush could beat Rubio and/or Trump, I wouldn't have written this. I just don't think he can.

McGarnagle
McGarnagle

 "Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign immediately,"


"I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so that the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current front-runner,"


This is from Paul Walker when he ended his presidential campaign. Quite ironic really. Him putting others ahead of himself makes him a better presidential candidate. Truth is Jeb quits now actually validates Trump as the winner in his battles with him. Trump wins SC and Nevada, the snowball just gets bigger. That ship has sailed. 

mick3
mick3

The problem with the Bush campaign always was that he had nothing to say other than he was governor of Florida a really long time ago and really, who cares?  Watching Jeb was a lot like watching the late Fred Thompson's campaign .. Just wait, folks, Fred Thompson is coming.  And when he finally announced, Fred had absolutely nothing to say.  He barely seemed to even know why he was running.  Jeb delayed and dallied around until his Mommy gave him permission to run.  He should have either signaled he was all in or all out because by the time he was "all" in he was already almost "all" out.  Go away, Jeb, and leave this field to sort itself out without distraction. Incidentally, take Ben Carson with you; nice guy but way out of his league.

xxxzzz
xxxzzz

@mick3 Bush and Kasich are the only ones left who aren't out of their league as far as the job of president.  Jeb did a great job as governor of Florida and won't be Divider in Chief.  Cruz and Rubio have been part of the most reviled Senate ever.  Everyone hates Cruz and Rubio admires Obama's approach-as he tells us, over and over and over and over....  Trump is a reality show TV star.

Caius
Caius

" Kasich...could at least conceivably hope to get a similar response in such states as Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont (March 1), Maine (March 5), and Michigan (March 8)..."

It will be tough to go the remainder of February with no top 3 finishes and remain viable.  March 1 is a long way away.

This caveat on my remarks, from day one Kasich has been my personal choice of those contesting for the Republican nomination. But he has the charisma of Caius so...........!


Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

@Caius

It's a shame that charisma is more highly valued than competence.  We might have avoided adding $8 trillion to the debt and putting millions more in poverty over the last seven years.

khckhc
khckhc

kasich, jeb or trump over cruz anyday

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Kyle, what are your thoughts on the possibility of Bloomberg joining the Presidential race? I assume he'll be an independent.