By Nicholas Riebel || Contributing Writer
Wow, what happened to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign? Do you remember? He was supposed to be the indomitable frontrunner for the GOP nomination, have more cash than his rivals, and he easily clinch the nomination. Who would have stood up to him? Senator Rand Paul? Too isolationist and eccentric. Marco Rubio? Too boring, and too much of a typical politician. Senator Ted Cruz? Too extreme and bombastic. The others? Largely anonymous has-beens or never-weres, including former Governor Mike Huckabee, the increasingly unpopular Governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Bobby Jindal. Perhaps the wealthy failed businesswoman Carly Fiorina could stop the Jebmentum, or perhaps the brilliant but incendiary neurosurgeon Ben Carson would claim the nomination?
Wait, Donald Trump’s actually running this time? Surely he isn’t serious. There’s no chance Trump would be any more than an inconvenience to the inevitable Bush, right?
As it often is, conventional wisdom is being proven wrong before our eyes. If recent polls are to be believed, Jeb Bush is straggling behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and an alternating selection of others, including Carly Fiorina and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio (http://fxn.ws/1PuuySM). No liberal bias here: that poll is from Fox News.
Jeb Bush, as you may or may not know, is a former governor of the purple state of Florida, which recently has been key to both parties when they were fighting to win the White House. Passing aside questions about Bush’s competence as governor there, it seems that he has made connections and is liked well enough, even if he (and Rubio) are currently losing the state to Trump: (http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2015/PPP_Release_FL_91515.pdf/). How could this be, when his victory is supposed to be guaranteed?
The Republican Establishment, the pundits, and the American people need to believe that everything is normal with the Republican party if the party wants any chance of success in the general election. But the rise and fall of some of these candidates is as much the fault of the Republican electorate as it is the fault of the candidates themselves.
The Republican electorate is now dominated by the Tea Party; in fact, the Republican debates are the strongest evidence of this. Tea Party voters want a candidate who isn’t in Washington, who is aggressive and will fight for his constituents, and, perhaps most importantly, is enraged at the injustices that Washington is responsible for or perpetuating. That’s why Scott Walker and Rick Perry failed. Although they were devoutly conservative, and would aggressively go after their political enemies, they were just insufficiently furious at illegal immigration, the Muslims, and the liberals/socialists. This is why these political “outsiders” (Trump, Carson, and Fiorina) are doing so well: they have tapped into this rage. Fiorina notably directs her venom toward Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood; Carson attacks Muslims and socialists, and Trump points a finger towards liberals, ethnic and religious minority groups, and weaker Republicans.
Jeb Bush’s problem is that he is a thinker, not a fighter. He doesn’t do rage well. It’s worth noting that in both Republican debates what probably earned him the most applause was when he inaccurately defended his brother. When he said that George W. Bush “kept us safe” while president, he received heavy applause.
It seems that many Americans right now want angry, non-politician politicians who are enraged with the system and want to change it. Although Senator Bernie Sanders is more subdued than the Republican candidates, this is a large part of why he is doing so well against Hillary Clinton, who is the definition of a political insider. Jeb Bush may have experience, money, and connections, he may have most of the Republican establishment backing him, but unless he gets angry, moves further to the political right, denounces the system as it is, and performs well on TV, I predict he will continue to struggle. I suspect he will end up doing some of these things, but I think he has to do all of them to save his campaign from certain defeat. Currently, he is not leading or even tied in any recent opinion poll.
I would not be shocked to see him drop out before the Iowa primary election in February.
Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.