Monday, September 28, 2015

That Sinking Feeling

Jeb Bush is in trouble.

Jeb Bush is entering a critical phase of his Republican presidential campaign, with top donors warning that the former Florida governor needs to demonstrate growth in the polls over the next month or face serious defections among supporters.

The warnings, expressed by numerous senior GOP fund­raisers in recent days, come as Bush and an allied super PAC are in the early stages of an aggressive television ad campaign they say will help erase doubts about his viability.

But Bush continues to battle against a steady decline in the polls, sinking to fifth place at just 7 percent in a national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday and similarly languishing in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

There are a few things that Mr. Bush has to overcome, not the least of which is his name — which he can’t do anything about.  But beyond that, he’s trying to win the race as the establishment candidate when the electorate that he’s after is not at all interested in voting for someone like him.  Been there, done that, lost.  This time around, they’re taking a ride on the wild side with the three top contenders so far — Trump, Carson, and Fiorina — having never won elective office before and showing disdain for those who have.  Not only that, this crowd is in no mood to vote for anyone who shows less than rock-bottom appeal to the white Christian nativists, and Mr. Bush, with his “act of love” stance on immigrants (despite his red-meat-tossed tilt against “free stuff”), is just not going to make it.

In years past other campaigns have been running on fumes only to be revived again and make it to the convention — remember John McCain — so it’s not a good idea to pronounce him dead yet.  But right now he’s not offering what the base wants: a virulent anti-establishment candidate who hates Washington and anyone who smells of being too nice to people who aren’t white, aren’t Christians, and who speaks anything other than American.

I’m still not convinced that Jeb Bush really wants to do all of this.  I think he’s going through it because of family history and some sort of sense of obligation to correcting the record and burnishing the name of Bush. But frankly, I think he’ll be secretly relieved when it’s all over and he can find a way to gracefully exit and go back to being the guy standing in line to buy a bagel at the Einstein’s on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables.