Jeb Bush is not having a very good time. He's currently stuck in fifth place in the polls, facing nearly daily snipes from Donald Trump and had to lay off a large chunk of his Miami-based campaign staff. Over the weekend, he gave his most candid public comments about his frustration with his place in the race.
“I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than
Bush was swiftly taken to task by the pundit class for coming off whiny and with an I'm-going-to-take-my-ball-and-go-home attitude. It paints Bush in the worst possible still life: a rich guy from a wealthy and politically connected family who's used to getting what he wants and to things going his way being upset that they aren't at the moment. There's something painfully un-presidential about a presidential candidate telling people he's got a lot of other "really cool things" he could be doing with his time.
But Bush needs to chill out. Winning the Republican nomination isn't easy, and it has now morphed into America's favorite political sideshow with lots of twists and turns along the way. Bush shouldn't worry about where he is in the polls months before a vote is actually taken. He should be concentrating on coming off as the sane guy who actually attempts to pretend to know what he's talking about. Some of his recent public comments aren't really helping that cause.
Perhaps, however, Bush thought this would be easy. His father George H.W. and brother George W., like Jeb, both entered their primaries as the likely nominees, and despite notable challenges from Bob Dole and John McCain respectively never really lost a hold on that position for very long.
Yet, that's just not how the Republican primary works in today's world.
Need we remind you of the polling in the 2008 primary:
We should point out that this chart doesn't even include the brief candidacy of Fred Thompson, the former senator America knew best for playing a recurring character on Law & Order. Thompson lead most polls taken in early July 2007 and surged back to the top again in mid-September through mid-October. Eventual nominee John McCain, meanwhile, dropped at certain times to as low as fourth place in several polls, played second banana to Rudy Giuliani throughout much of the primary, and finally only emerged as the favorite once people actually started casting ballots.
Here's the 2012 polling:
Romney too had to sit in second place a number of times as primary voters briefly flirted with numerous candidates whose charisma was stronger than their credentials. Who can forget the wonderful, brief political triumph of Herman Cain?
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This is what Republican primary voters do. They don't like being told who to vote for by the establishment class, and they spend much of the fall and winter before primaries actually take place flirting with whichever candidate appears to be the biggest outsider and has the biggest mouth. Then, when votes actually start to get registered, they get cold feet, remember that they should probably pick someone who has a chance to win, and usually end up with one of the guys the establishment had backed all along.
There's no reason to think this year will be any different, and there's no reason to think that Bush's fortunes won't eventually turn around once Trump-mania and Carson-fever dissipate.
Bush just needs to keep his head up, slug through it, keep an eye out for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and, most importantly, keep appearing the like the guy who seems the most presidential. Complaining about all the other "cool things" you can be doing certainly doesn't help.
You can be Romeny and McCain, or you can be Rudy Giuliani, the early favorite who did actually completely falter.