Lindsey Graham Endorses Jeb Bush

How does Lindsey Graham look at Jeb Bush’s polling or debate performance last night and say to himself, “I’m going to vote for that guy”?

Heck, how does Lindsey Graham look at his own polling within the GOP and say, “I’m running for President”?

And for that matter, why the hell would Lindsey Graham think this is anything other than a detriment to Jeb Bush’s campaign? Is Graham thinking that his endorsement might be the final blow to end Jeb Bush’s candidacy? That would be the only smart thing Graham has done this Presidential season.

The only people who will care about this are the people who do not like Jeb Bush.

Bush is Doing Rubio a Tremendous Favor

Some people are self-motivated and self-disciplined, while others need a goad. Marco Rubio seems to be one of the latter.

While Ted Cruz spends his indefatigable days on the campaign trail, shuttling between Iowa, New Hampshire, and the southern states, and other candidates (notably Christie) camp out in the cold Granite State, Rubio has spent comparatively little time in either place.

Criticized for what’s been called a “nontraditional” schedule, questions arise about what Rubio is actually doing.

But in recent weeks, the story took a turn when observers started noticing that Rubio, in addition to ignoring his work in Congress, wasn’t making many trips to Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, either, prompting questions about what, exactly, Rubio does all day.

Andrew Prokop checked in with members of Rubio’s team, who shed some light on the campaign’s belief that actual campaigning is overrated.

If we believe what Rubio’s advisers are saying, they aren’t using these tactics too much because they genuinely believe their effectiveness is overrated. They’re saying that they think ads and media coverage, not field or campaign events, are the keys to victory.
“More people in Iowa see Marco on ‘Fox and Friends’ than see Marco when he is in Iowa,” Rubio’s campaign manager, Terry Sullivan, told the New York Times.

It’s a surprisingly risky strategy.

It is, indeed, but Jeb Bush may change all that with his new emphasis on taking his old protégé down.

Instead of being content to sit back, film TV commercials and appear on news shows, counting on the media to make his case, Rubio will have to show up to personally persuade voters that he’s not what Bush’s Super PAC is painting him to be.

And who knows, maybe Rubio has uncovered a heretofore untested formula for success. Perhaps a focus on fundraising and conservative-media appearances can be a perfectly adequate substitute for a competent ground game and traditional, in-person campaigning.

Maybe, instead of town-hall meetings and grip-and-grin gatherings, Rubio spends his days focusing on debate prep, practicing his lines in front of a mirror, waiting for news organizations to gush over his unrivaled ability to recite canned soundbites.

No candidate ever has won an election by staying at home or going on TV, without putting in the time with voters. I’ve personally worked enough campaigns to know that the best way to lose is to save on shoe leather. Rubio has promised to spend more time in N.H., a state he MUST do well in (second place) to have a boost going into South Carolina.

But is it too little too late? The latest Monmouth poll has Rubio dropping behind Cruz and Kasich (Kasich!), although within the margin of error. There’s still plenty of room to jockey, with only a third of surveyed voters expressing a locked-in choice, although Trump is set to run away with the state.

The media is still being kind to Rubio: the Washington Post wrote that he’s “getting traction online,” a euphemism for “not there in person,” calling it a “concerted effort.” TIME wrote that he cancelled a fundraiser to “blunt no-show attacks.” But good press only goes so far.

To match Trump’s star power, Cruz’s dogged determination to personally convince every voter to support him, and not become lost in the noise, Rubio has to decide to show up and campaign in person. He may not like doing it (Rand Paul hates glad-handing too; look where it’s got him), but it’s part of the job, that is if he wants to win.

Perhaps having a boogieman to fight, as he did with Charlie Crist in 2010, will motivate the young senator to spend more time with voters, and less time mugging for the cameras. If it works, Rubio should thank his old mentor (again), for the assist.

Team Jeb Bush Prepares to Hand Ted Cruz the Republican Nomination

“As revenge for their ‘boy’ becoming his own man, Mike Murphy intends to destroy Marco Rubio.”

Here is something you need to know to this morning — Jeb Bush’s Super PAC ads have been terrible. They have not helped Jeb Bush at all. In fact, more Republican primary voters say they would never vote for Jeb Bush than say the same about Donald Trump.

Here is something else you should know — Team Bush premised his strategy on keeping Marco Rubio out of the race. Bush announced early that he intended to run, then stockpiled his Super PAC before having to cut off ties when formally announced, then saw Marco Rubio still get in. They are bitterly angry at Marco Rubio because they see his as a young, upstart Hispanic boy ungrateful to his patrician masters and they want to payback their “boy.”

For many of Mr. Bush’s longest-serving advisers, Mr. Rubio’s run is a personal betrayal: Mr. Bush backed Mr. Rubio’s bid for House speaker in Florida and persuaded important donors to endorse him for Senate. A few of Mr. Bush’s supporters have taken to calling Mr. Rubio “Judas.”

Leading this effort for Team Bush is Mike Murphy, who has decided to drop up to $20 million attacking Marco Rubio for being a conservative pro-lifer.

You read that right. Murphy’s genius plan is to go nuclear on Marco Rubio in states that have a moderate to liberal GOP voter influence and crush Rubio for being pro-life and conservative.

In an attempt to blunt Mr. Rubio’s appeal against a Democratic nominee, Mr. Murphy recently showed some Republicans a video portraying Mr. Rubio as too extreme on abortion. A longtime opponent of abortion rights, Mr. Rubio said in a debate in August that he had “never advocated” laws that would allow abortions, even in cases of rape or incest.

Mr. Murphy has privately said to several people that Right to Rise would be ready to devote up to $20 million to fighting Mr. Rubio, according to several people told of the conversations.

The effect of this will be to hand Ted Cruz the Republican nomination. Cruz is consolidating conservative support and is going to get a huge bounce into the SEC Primary on March 1st where he will have Texas, plus Georgia and other southern states before Rubio and Bush even get to Florida to battle it out. This effort by Murphy will just hurt Rubio in later states with sizable establishment leaning votes when Rubio needs to overcome the early Cruz lead.

Mike Murphy has built a machine to get Jeb Bush elected and cannot get it done. More and more Republican voters have decided they will never, ever support Jeb Bush. The Bush Super PAC ads have done nothing to boost Bush’s popularity. As revenge for their “boy” becoming his own man, Mike Murphy intends to destroy Marco Rubio. If Bush can’t get the nomination, they will make sure Marco Rubio can’t either.

Advantage: Ted Cruz.

Jeb Can’t Fix This: Bush Donors Want Out

I said the other day the attacks on Rubio made Bush look weak and would hurt him with donors. Sure enough, Bush donors want out now because of the attacks. This is bad news. What makes it worse is that a number of Bush friendly congressmen are now speaking out against the Bush campaign for the attacks.

“I think the world of Jeb Bush. He was a great governor of Florida and is a really good person, but the campaign has hijacked his message” said Brian Ballard, a Tallahassee lobbyist who contributed more than $25,000 of his own money and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars more for Bush’s campaign and the super PAC supporting him.

“The campaign has become negative, one that is about attacking and trying to bring down Marco Rubio. And that doesn’t sit well — not only with me, but with anyone who knows the two,” Ballard said. “Marco’s a friend of mine. I didn’t sign up for a campaign that was going to be negative and attack a bright star of the party’s future. It doesn’t make sense. I’m over it. And I’m done.”

Ballard, who stopped raising money for the campaign three months ago as he saw it turn negative, said he decided to make his departure final and public after the Bush team called Rubio “the GOP Obama” and a “risky” bet due to his past personal financial struggles.

There’s also Congressman Pete Sessions and Congressman Carlos Curbelo openly critical of the ads.

No one is pointing the finger directly at Jeb Bush. They are, however, suggesting he needs to do something about his campaign. And that’s the point. Jeb Bush has launched a new “Jeb Can Fix It” theme for his campaign. He’s going to need to fix his own campaign before anyone really believes him.

That Time Jeb Bush’s Campaign Made Him a Liar

Jeb Bush has had a bad week. And I’m willing to take the criticism for liking the guy. He’s not my first or second choice, but I’d gladly support him as the nominee. He’s a good guy who doesn’t deserve a lot of the smears hurled his way.

But Jeb Bush’s campaign made him a liar last week and added to a terrible news cycle. I maintain he needs to take his campaign out back and shoot it and either reboot or go home. His campaign manager, Danny Diaz, is a terrific hire. Every time I’ve dealt with Tim Miller, his communications guy, I’ve been impressed. In fact, in planning the RedState Gathering the Bush team was by far the most prompt and responsive of all the campaigns and one of the least demanding. I hear that from others who’ve dealt with the campaign too. They are good people.

But this past week, under pressure, cracks showed up. I don’t know who was responsible for it, but the Bush campaign, after that terrible debate performance, decided to drop all their opposition research on Marco Rubio. My suspicion is that they wanted to get it out there so Mike Murphy, running the Super PAC for Bush, can start attacking Rubio with the opposition research file. The ads presently running from Right to Rise, the Super PAC, are having virtually no impact and, though I haven’t seen them, many of those who have are less than impressed.

This Rubio oppo drop shows how much the Bush campaign feels threatened by Marco Rubio. They know they need to take him out and cannot just focus on keeping John Kasich behind them. But they botched it.

In the oppo drop on Marco, they hinted at some nefarious something about Marco that caused him to fail the vetting process for Mitt Romney. In truth, people close to the Bush campaign has been whispering that Marco has a woman problem. I’d note that individuals connected to the National Republican Senatorial Committee also tried to float this rumor in 2010 as they backed Charlie Crist. It has all the hallmarks of a last ditch effort to smear an attractive, young candidate based on Hollywood stereotype and not the candidate himself. Rubio is actually happily married and would rather spend time with his family than with his colleagues in Washington. But people close to Team Bush, like the NRSC before them, are in “throw the kitchen sink” mode.

This makes Bush a liar though. Mitt Romney’s Deputy Campaign Manager from 2012, has now denied Rubio failed the vetting process. In fact, she said he passed the vetting process, but the campaign decided to go in a different direction.

So, in addition to the stunt making Jeb Bush a liar, it also calls into question the rest of the opposition research file. It was a lame stunt that may have publicly handed the Super PAC the Rubio oppo file, but also made the candidate running as the adult look like a grade school bully who can’t take a punch.

Jeb Bush: A Good Man Whose Time Is In The Past

The attack came with the reluctance of a good man knowing he must do something he does not want to do. At the CNBC debate in Boulder, Colo., the pretentious moderators asked Marco Rubio about missing votes in the Senate. For perspective, Rubio has missed far fewer votes than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry when they ran for president from the Senate.

Sensing he must have a moment of combat, Jeb Bush reluctantly weighed in on the issue, claiming that the Senate was like the French work week, and that surely Marco Rubio could show up for work three days a week.

Jeb Bush is a really nice guy. He really does care about the future of the country. He clearly did not want to go on the attack. Bush’s donors are worried he does not have what it takes to stay on the campaign trail. Bush needed to show them he had the fire in the belly. His half-hearted attack on Rubio was his version of his father saying “message: I care” on the campaign trail.

The problem was not Jeb Bush’s attack. The problem was not even Bush’s reluctance in delivering the line of attack. The problem was that Jeb Bush’s campaign and related super PAC had both been telegraphing for days on end that this attack was coming. Marco Rubio had about a week to prepare for the attack. That was amateurish.

When Rubio responded, he did so in the most devastating way. First, he noted that Jeb Bush backed John McCain in 2008 and never complained about McCain missing votes in the Senate to campaign. Then Rubio pointed out that Bush did not seem to want to make the attack, but someone made Bush do it. Both what Rubio said and how he said it left Jeb Bush looking pitiful and feeble. The former Jeb Bush protege, at that moment, became Bush’s master.

At the next memorable moment for Bush, the moderator from CNBC asked him about fantasy football. Bush went for the “make me relatable” card and dove right into delivering a humorous answer. Then the moderator moved on to Chris Christie, who launched into an attack at the question; Christie gave the answer Bush should have given, and thereby totally overshadowed Jeb Bush.

The time has come for Jeb Bush to reconsider his future. He clearly does not enjoy being on the campaign trail. He is not a man for this season. He has not held elected office since January 2007, and it is showing. Worse, he is having to make the case that a third Bush is the best person to pit against the second Clinton — while on the stage with new, young faces of a Republican Party that has moved beyond the Bush legacy.

Jeb Bush should have run in 2012, but he would have even then been anchored by his last name. It is relatively unfair that Bush is anchored by his last name, but it is true. It is also true that he was once very successful politician, but that was a decade ago. Bush stands on a presidential debate stage, and we can almost hear him wondering what happened and how everything passed him by.

If Jeb Bush is not willing to fire a lot of people and retool his campaign, he needs to settle on being a former presidential candidate. Those of us who like him, whether or not he is our choice for president, hate to see a good man descending to farce and a kind man descending to has-been status.

As a final point, the CNBC debate moderators were truly awful. CNBC could have saved a lot of money by letting actual monkeys fling poo at the candidates instead of having human beings do it. The most memorable moments of the night were Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie and Donald Trump beating up the moderators. Everyone had an opportunity to do it, but Jeb Bush delivered a half-hearted attack on Rubio instead of piling on the liberals on stage. It was pitiful, and he needs to rethink his future.

Dear Jeb Bush, It Is Time To Take Your Campaign Out Back And Shoot It

I do like Jeb Bush, but wow.

Forget everything else about the CNBC debate and forget everything Jeb said, but one thing.

Tonight, Jeb Bush brought up Marco Rubio skipping votes in the Senate.

This came after the Bush Super PAC publicly announced it was going to blow up Marco Rubio over missing votes. It came after the Bush campaign started talking about Marco Rubio as the Republicans’ Barack Obama.

The confrontation was predictable. It was obvious given the drumbeat of the campaign. The Bush campaign so openly telegraphed it that it gave Marco Rubio days on end to prepare a rebuttal and Rubio did.

Rubio blew up Jeb Bush and pointed out Bush was willing to back John McCain in 2008, who missed far more votes than Rubio, without Bush saying a word.

It was a devastating rebuttal and one that could have been handled without telegraphing to Rubio it was coming. Instead of throwing Rubio off his game, Jeb gave Rubio time to bring big guns.

That was campaign amateur hour.

Bush’s heart clearly was not in the attack and he came away bleeding badly. He failed to shine the rest of the debate except in a question about fantasy football, then had Chris Christie denounce the question as unserious — something Bush should have done.

Jeb Bush needs to take his campaign out back and shoot it — then decide if he really has the stomach for this. If so, he needs a new team. McCain was his guy in 2008. If Bush really wants this, he needs to completely shake up his campaign like John McCain.

Tonight was just a sad end to a really good man who will more likely than not be henceforth referred to as a former Presidential candidate.

The Bush Brothers Road Show Is a Mistake

“About the only way for the Bush family to hurt Donald Trump at this point is for Jeb Bush to withdraw from the race.”

I get frequently criticized for not being hard on Jeb Bush. RedState is accused of being JebState by Trump supporters. I’ve stated repeatedly that Jeb Bush is not my first, second, or even third choice for the nomination, but I think Jeb Bush was both a very conservative governor and is a very, very nice and decent person.

But I think the Bush Brothers Road Show is a mistake. God bless this family of patriots and statesmen, but the Republican Party has decided at the grassroots level that it is time to move in a new direction.

Personally, at an existential level, I think it is not a good sign of health for our republic that twenty-four years after President George H. W. Bush left office and eight years after President George W. Bush left office, the American republic can find no new leaders not named Bush or Clinton to run the republic. That signals very bad health for the republic at a national leadership level.

Beyond that, though, Jeb Bush and George Bush teaming up — great and kind men that they are — is just another reminder to a Republican base already in revolt that they need to keep up the revolt. Taking shots at Donald Trump by the Bush family is more likely to cause base level conservatives to rally around Trump than move on.

I know the Bush family must show its donor network they still have what it takes. They need to reassure people who have given millions. But I think the roadshow of the Bush Brothers emboldens their opponents more than their supporters and emboldens one opponent more than most — Donald Trump.

In trying to hurt Trump, they’re just going to help him. About the only way for the Bush family to hurt Donald Trump at this point is for Jeb Bush to withdraw from the race. That’s just a fact.