The trend lines for Jeb Bush have been terrible. From 17 points on July 13th to just 4.3 points now, Bush has not only failed to gain traction, but still sees ridiculously high numbers of voters saying they would never, ever vote for him.
Bush is the mirror of Trump these days. The sedate and calm against the bombast and fury — as much as the establishment would never, ever vote for Trump so too is it with Bush and the base of the party. Like Batman causing Gotham to be filled with arch-criminals, Bush’s entry into the race became the genesis for Trump’s candidacy. Republican voters, having more and more felt pushed into both McCain and Romney then seeing scores of broken promises and losing candidates as they propelled the GOP back to Congress, revolted.
Just look at July. Bush is green, Trump is blue, and Scott Walker is orange. That was Jeb Bush’s high water mark and it has been downhill ever since.
Now, as Bush falls behind Chris Christie in New Hampshire and we are less than thirty days from Iowa, the Bush Super PAC and, it seems, Bush’s campaign too, have decided to give up trying to rehabilitate Jeb Bush and, instead, destroy Marco Rubio. The press reports about the personal nature of the attacks appear to be true.
The latest salvo comes in South Carolina where Bush is in fifth place, though perhaps headed back to fourth with the fall of Carson. The Bush Super PAC ads focus on Rubio’s voting record and they suggest Rubio is a young man in a hurry, too ambitious for his own good. That sounds, again, like a personal critique.
In Iowa and New Hampshire as well, the attacks on Rubio by Team Bush have intensified.
There’s just one problem. Bush is doing nothing to help his own popularity. Voters already looked at him and have moved own. Look again at the graph. Voters moved to Scott Walker but then did not go back to Bush. Those voters have not only gone to Rubio, but also to Christie. The odds are they will not go back to Bush, particularly given the polling showing so many Republicans saying they would never vote for him.
At the end of 2015 and now into this year, Bush has not really benefited from a Carson collapse. He has been in a plateau at the bottom, bunched up with other candidates. Carson and Rubio have both been in a slight decline while Cruz and Trump go up. With less than thirty days to go before Iowa and just over a month before New Hampshire, the pro-Bush strategy of attacking Rubio without building up Bush’s own favorability seems wasted, personal, and ineffective.
Bush’s campaign strategy to attack Donald Trump appears to be doing little as well. About the only thing Bush might be able to do now to blow up the race and stop Trump is provide the catharsis Republican primary voters need. But that would mean a graceful exit. His entry instigated the reactionary rise of Trump. His exit, though it would not stop Trump, would dampen the needs so many of the base have to stop a third Bush administration.