One of the ‘mike-dropping’ moments of Wednesday evening’s debate was when Jeb Bush tried to attack Marco Rubio. Rubio not only deflected the attack but then turned it around and made Bush look bad. The younger Floridian’s response made Bush’s mojo run away and hide in a corner, and many (including this observer) believe that the exchange did irreparable harm to Jeb’s presidential ambitions.
US News and World Report got hold of a power point document (embedded below) that gives some context to the Bush attack on Marco. The power point was created for a Bush meeting with his family and supporters this past Monday two days before the debate. There was an edited version presented to the press (45 pages), but the full version (112 pages) used at the meeting, details more of Bush’s campaign strategy (hang on New Hampshire starting in Jan. you guys are going to see a lot of Bush commercials). It also details more of the Rubio attacks.
In it according to US News:
The complete offering [power point] contains more biting, detailed slights, pointedly questioning the character and ethics of Bush’s home state rival.
Despite the fact that according to the Real Clear Politics average (as of 10/30), Bush is trailing four candidates and the top two are far in front of Rubio, Jeb Bush has decided the only way for his campaign to recover is by attacking Marco Rubio. Even stranger is the fact that if every single Rubio supporter switched over to Bush would still be 6% behind Carson, and almost 11% behind Trump, so why is Bush trying for third place?
There are sound political reasons for Bush to set his sites on the younger Floridian. But rather than focus on the policy differences, Bush who has said over and over that he would avoid attacking the other candidates demonstrates a “Clintonesque” obsession with driving Rubio’s reputation into the sewer. For example, one page US News points out:
It’s titled “Marco Is A Risky Bet,” and it bullet-points Rubio’s “misuse of state party credit cards, taxpayer funds and ties to scandal-tarred former Congressman David Rivera.”
When Rubio was a state lawmaker, he used the state party credit card for personal expenses, a decision he later called a mistake. In 2005, he and Rivera jointly purchased a home that later faced foreclosure.
Another bullet point says Rubio’s “closeness with Norman Braman, who doubles as personal benefactor[,] raises major ethical questions.”
Braman, a billionaire auto dealer, is expected to pour $10 million into Rubio’s White House endeavor, The New York Times reports. He’s also paid Rubio’s wife to oversee his charitable work.
The Bush team also mocks Rubio’s “tomorrow versus yesterday” argument as one that would be “widely ridiculed by media” should he run against the first potential female president.
The most cryptic slight is left for last: “Those who have looked into Marco’s background in the past have been concerned with what they have found.”
A Bush aide says that line refers to concerns Mitt Romney’s team unearthed when they vetted Rubio for vice president in 2012.
Does Bush really believe that his policy proposals are so awful that he cannot top Rubio buy pointing out the policy differences, but must resort to character attacks? The truth is that Bush’s number one issue is not policy. Unlike Rubio, Trump, Carson, and Cruz for example, Jeb’s appeal is strictly intellectual. As a candidate he seem distant unable to make the visceral attachment to voters that the candidates he trails has been able to do. He could put down Rubio or the others as much as he wants, but unless he makes that personal connection he will never be president. In the end that lack of a connection is what killed McCain in 2008 and Romney in 2012.
Bush’s attacks on Rubio are reminiscent of Herbert Lom in the old Pink Panther movies. Lom played Inspector Clouseau’s boss who hated the Peter Sellers character so much that he kept trying to kill him. But instead of succeeding with his homicidal intent, Lom’s character (Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus) injures himself every time he tries, just like Bush did during Wednesday’s debate.
Bush’s attacks on Rubio detailed in the power point below will continue to injure the candidate’s campaign and will lead to a continued dissociation between him and the voters. With out that connection, Jeb will never be able to get his message out, no matter how much money he has or how many commercials he runs.