By Nicholas Riebel || Staff Writer
While watching the Republican Presidential Debate in the College Center this Wednesday, I noticed at least two things. The first thing I noticed is that the F&M WiFi could be much improved. The second thing I noticed is that Jeb Bush probably just blew whatever remained of his chances of becoming president.
Jeb Bush should be crushing everyone else in the field right now, rather than leaving Donald Trump and perhaps Ben Carson as the frontrunners. He has a ton of money and a number of endorsements. He is the establishment candidate. For Republicans and Democrats, the candidate who is favored by the establishment of the party tends to become that party’s presidential nominee. Only when that establishment candidate does very poorly is this not the case. That was the case for Hillary Clinton in 2008 (though it is too early to see if history will repeat for her). It also seems to be the case for Jeb Bush.
One would think that, because he is closely related to two still-living presidents, Bush would have the connections he needs to win. Bush definitely has connections. But perhaps Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz have better ones? But if Bush’s people are doing the best they can do, it’s not good enough. I’d even venture to say that the WiFi connections at F&M are better. (But enough of that for now, the joke has worn out, just like the WiFi did at the College Center on Wednesday.)
People are talking about how poorly organized and managed the CNBC debate was. And it was. Candidates talked over the moderators, went over their allotted time, and even shouted back at and insulted them. Of course, the crowd went wild every time that happened, relishing any attack on the supposedly “liberal” media. The moderators did poorly, and the questions were often silly and not substantive (I agree with Chris Christie: why ask questions about fantasy football when there are far more important things going on? Questions about the influence of money in our politics, growing Russian and Chinese military activity, and climate change would have been much more appropriate.) Yet, Bush managed to do worse.
Nate Silver, of the legendary FiveThirtyEight website, agrees that Bush performed poorly. Worse, this may signal the end of his campaign, which I have predicted for a while. Silver says something particularly interesting that I think is worth quoting here: “before the debate, major Bush donors were fretting openly to reporters (not just swiping at Bush anonymously) that his campaign was in a ‘death spiral.’ Those concerns may grow larger and louder now” (http://53eig.ht/1O94VtJ). This is critical to Bush, because he was never running on his charisma, his temperament, his ideology, or his family name (for better or worse). He was running as the establishment consensus choice, as an inevitable candidate with enough money to outspend all his competitors. But, like with Hillary Clinton in 2008, when you don’t have an advantage with money, and the establishment support you have is growing nervous and starting to crack, you lose your inevitability as the nominee, and eventually the nomination itself.
Jeb Bush and his advisors, like Hillary Clinton in 2008, thought that he would have the race locked up, and it would be his to throw away. And throw it away he has. Donald Trump always accused Bush of being low-energy, but I think that’s just part of the problem. I think his heart isn’t in it, he doesn’t have the fire in his belly or the need (not merely the desire) to become president. Voters picked up on this, along with his family legacy and actually good immigration sensibilities, and came to loathe him as a candidate. He’s losing not merely because he’s a bad campaigner, but also because he’s alienating voters, who sense he doesn’t really want to win all that badly. The voters want a serious candidate who’s an angry fighter (like Donald Trump). Bush’s poor campaigning and his worsening relationship with the voters reinforce each other in a positive feedback loop. He may have the money, but he’s likely blown his chance to connect with voters. This is why he will likely drop out soon.
Junior Nicholas Riebel is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.