Many pundits (including this one) predicted that Jeb Bush did irreparable damage to his campaign during the last debate when his attack on Marco Rubio backfired. Judging by the post-debate polls many GOP voters were turned off by his failed attack as Bush’s support has dropped to the 4% range.
Jeb Bush doubled down his Rubio attacks in a meeting of family, friends, and supporters that featured a power point presentation about how he was going to save his already floundering campaign. Part of the of the presentation was an attack on the Florida senator.
A report in Politico reveals that 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 has quit the campaign because of the Rubio attacks which he blames on Jeb’s staff as opposed to the candidate himself.
Ballard 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. Ballard said he stopped raising money for the campaign three months ago amid a dispute with the campaign.
According to the campaign Ballard has not be active in the campaign for months but that may or may not be sour grapes and other Bush supporters are expressing similar sentiments “from members of Congress to those who have worked for the Bush campaign to donors unhappy with the direction of the election effort.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, who counts George W. Bush as a Texas constituent and whose father, William, served as George H. W. Bush’s FBI director, said Jeb put himself in a combative situation that’s an ill fit for him. “I don’t think it’s his strong suit,” said Sessions, still a Bush supporter. “I think it’s Donald Trump’s strong suit.”
And U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo – who, like Bush and Rubio, is a Miami-area Republican – said that while he still thinks Bush is the most-qualified to sit in the White House, attacking Rubio is neither effective nor beneficial.
“The serious candidates in this race should focus on their policy proposals and resumes,” Curbelo said in an email to POLITICO. “Mud-slinging and efforts to disqualify one another will only serve to pave Hillary Clinton’s path to the White House.”
(…)“Jeb has been and needs to continue to talk about the issues,” said Chicago investor Ron Gidwitz, a Bush donor who has contributed $100,000 to Bush’s super PAC, Right to Rise. “I see no reason why Jeb needs to attack anyone.”
Francis Rooney, a Bush donor who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush, said he “wouldn’t tell [Bush] what to do,” but stressed his belief that Bush should focus on an economic message, which is what attracted people to Bush in the first place. Rooney, whose investment company, Rooney Holdings, has contributed $2 million to Bush’s super PAC, also urged Jeb to distinguish himself from “attack dogs” who were on the debate stage.
The campaign critics are blaming Bush team senior staffers, at least one person who worked for the Bush campaign explained that of the staffers explained that senior members of the Bush team took Rubio’s entry into the campaign personally, feeling that the younger Florida Republican shouldn’t have postponed his presidential run in favor of his former mentor who has seniority. Which sounds like they believe in the old method of the GOP candidate selection, nominating a candidate because it is that person’s turn. This method has given the party great leaders like,
President Bob Dole, President John McCain, and of course President Mitt Romney.
Some have taken to calling Rubio “Judas,” a betrayer who should have deferred to the elder Republican, the source said, adding that the campaign’s upper-echelon isn’t listening to the numerous voices in the conservative movement and the Republican Party who have become increasingly disillusioned with the negative tone.
It sounds as if the Bush team is tone deaf to the political mood and the anger at the political establishment which has made “outsiders” such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson the front runners (at least for now). Rubio has been able to appeal to some in the establishment as well as the “outsider” crowd.
“For a substantial portion of the DC crowd – and I think this probably goes beyond DC – Marco is well liked,” said one major Bush donor and fundraiser from Washington. “I don’t know necessarily what is gained by picking fights with people.”
One reason the Bush campaign’s tactic has hit such a nerve is that, polls show, a high amount of Bush supporters favor Rubio as a second-choice candidate. And with Bush’s public support collapsing, many Republicans don’t want to see his campaign take Rubio down with it.
Ballard who has historically been the top GOP money man in Florida hasn’t joined the Rubio campaign but is open to joining the campaign if they ask him.
“The three smartest people I know are my three daughters. All three of them are for Marco Rubio, and have been despite my support for Jeb,” he said. “When they speak about Marco, they speak about someone who can get them involved in politics. That’s why Marco has so much potential. That’s clearly why so many in the Bush campaign feel like they have to strangle him in the crib. And that’s a damn shame.”
In the end the loss of at least one big money guy and the disappointment of others is a strong indication that the floundering Jeb Bush campaign will not recover. Yes America, although he may not realize it yet, Jeb Bush is done, stick a fork in him.
On Thursday evening FBN announced that both Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie have been dropped from the main stage into the “happy hour” debate on 11/10. Don’t be surprised if by CNN debate in the middle of December Jeb Bush finds himself joining the early crowd (although I can’t see him dropping out until after the New Hampshire primary, 95 days away.