After months of an unofficial campaign, Jeb Bush is starting his official one weaker than Mitt Romney was when he started for 2012.
There is a pretty fascinating column in The Upshot blog at the New York Times. Nate Cohn writes of Jeb Bush,
He has not won the invisible primary, the behind-the-scenes competition for elite support that often decides the nomination, and he has not even emerged as a favorite of the party’s large block of more moderate voters. He starts in a weaker position than not only his brother in 1999 or his father in 1987, but also Mitt Romney in 2011.
To a certain extent, Mr. Bush is a victim of unfair expectations. He was often called the front-runner, even though it was obvious that the party’s large conservative and populist base would have serious reservations about an establishment candidate who often seemed to attack conservatives. And he was likely to face stronger competition, like Scott Walker, than recent Republican nominees.
This is a pretty fascinating piece that basically tells us that Jeb Bush was never a strong candidate. No one should be surprised that Jeb Bush is failing with conservatives. But he is not appealing to moderates either.
I find it interesting (and a little enraging) in the above quotation that it is casually admitted that the entire Republican Party nomination machinery is ruled by “elite support.” I don’t think it was that long ago that you could be considered a right wing conspiracy theorist for believing such things. Now it is mentioned openly in the mainstream news. It is almost as if, once they realized it was impossible to hide, they decided to treat the plutocracy as “old news.”
So why wouldn’t these “elite” supporters back Bush? Probably, in part, they are cautious because they know he is weak with the base. After all, they still have to win a popular election. If Bush can’t convince them that he is the guy to pull together a winning combination of conservatives and moderates, then they will want to support someone else who can succeed.
Since everyone knew that conservatives would not be likely to prefer Jeb Bush, his main selling point was that he would be attractive to moderates.
What is surprising, though, is Mr. Bush’s relatively vulnerable standing in the places he had seemed strong only a few months ago. It’s no surprise that he has miserable numbers among Iowa caucus-goers, who are very conservative, and Tea Party supporters nationwide. It is surprising that he has not emerged as a clear favorite in New Hampshire, where self-identified moderates make up nearly half of the electorate. In national polls, he fares no better against Hillary Rodham Clinton than Marco Rubio or Mr. Walker, and his favorability ratings are worse than all of them. The party establishment hasn’t unified around him, perhaps in part as a result of these indicators.
Why won’t moderates support Jeb Bush in great numbers? Probably because “moderates” in New Hampshire are not the same as “moderates” in politics. I doubt many moderates think Iraq was a good decision, or that NSA spying is Constitutional and keeping us safe from terrorists. But Jeb Bush is openly pushing such things. His relationship to his brother makes such associations inevitable.
So if he has neither conservatives nor moderates, then he has nothing to bring to win money from the “elite” donors. So he doesn’t have them either.