There's losing gracefully, with dignity, then there's sore losing, and then there's the way that Jeb Bush is losing his complacent, overconfident, entitlement-mentality-addled bid to carry on the family presidential business, which I can only characterize as delusional incoherence.
After his clunky, telegraphed, humiliating smackdown at the hands of Marco Rubio the other night, Jeb is almost maniacally trying to convince Republican voters that no, he's not quitting this race, yes, he's still got a huge campaign warchest, and yes, he is going to win the GOP presidential nomination.
The thing is, I think the person he's trying to convince of all that first and foremost is himself:
Jeb Bush tells Newsmax TV that he can reverse his low poll numbers and eventually win the Republican presidential nomination.
"The comeback kid is the narrative that the press would love," the former Florida governor told Newsmax Prime host J.D. Hayworth in an interview airing Friday. "They love to push you down and then allow you to come back up to push you down again. That's the way it seems to work.
Yeah, they'd love him to come back - as would the RNC, evidently - as he would be a general election tomato can for Mrs. Clinton or Weekend Bernie Sanders.
"There's a long way to go and the early States matter," he added. "What you'll see is that I will rise first in places like Iowa, New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, theoretically; Iowa his campaign has already effectively abandoned,
"We have a great organization — the super PAC that's affiliated with our campaign helping my candidacy's advertising now — I think that will help.
Yeah, like it's helped him to mid-single-digits in the polls and the third tier at best.
"And, I'm running with a lot heart and a lot of passion and conviction — and we're building a great ground game," Bush said. "I'm going to win."
If you've got to tell yourself that you've got a lot of heart and passion and conviction, clearly you lack all three. In Jeb's case, it's palpably obvious to everybody except him. It's almost painful to watch, the classic case of a player whom the game has passed by without him realizing it. Peggy Noonan in her Wall Street Journal column today delivered Bush III a devastating reality check:
It’s widely believed among high Jeb supporters that Mr. Trump — The Gong Show, as they call him — has kept Mr. Bush from rising. But Mr. Trump isn’t the problem, he was the revealer of the problem: Jeb just isn’t very good at this.
He’s not good at the merry aggression of national politics. He never had an obvious broad base within the party. He seemed to understand the challenge of his name in the abstract but not have a plan to deal with it. It was said of Scott Walker that the great question was whether he had the heft and ability to go national. The same should have been asked of Jeb. He had never been a national candidate, only a governor. Reporters thought he was national because he was part of a national family.
He was playing from an old playbook — he means to show people his heart, hopes to run joyously. But it’s 2015, we’re in crisis; they don’t care about your heart and joy, they care about your brains, guts and toughness. The expectations he faced were unrealistically high. He was painted as the front-runner. Reporters thought with his record, and a brother and father as president, he must be the front-runner, the kind of guy the GOP would fall in line for. But there’s no falling in line this year. He spent his first months staking out his position not as a creative, original chief executive of a major State — which he was — but as a pol raising shock-and-awe money and giving listless, unfocused interviews in which he slouched and shrugged. There was a sense he was waiting to be appreciated.
I speak of his candidacy in the past tense, which is rude though I don’t mean it rudely. It’s just hard to see how this can work. By hard I mean, for me, impossible. [emphases added]
He's playing from an old playbook, alright - circa 1956, roughly. And just as he couldn't read the situation and audible away from the planned attack on Senator Rubio over his missing Senate votes Wednesday night, so he just lazily assumed that his surname and a hundred million dollars would be enough all by itself to land him the Republican nomination and the presidency that he considered his family's birthright. But it hasn't turned out that way, and now he's desperately trying to figure out why, and he's failing, and it's leading him in inexplicable directions, like, for example, doubling down on his quasi-nihilistic war against his one-time protege Marco Rubio:
The way forward has become a matter of debate for Mr. Bush, with his donors and advisers split on how to contend with Mr. Rubio. There is little appetite among contributors for a full-scale assault on the senator, who many of them like and would support if Mr. Bush quits…
But among Mr. Bush’s top aides and his super PAC, there is growing contempt for Mr. Rubio and a desire to attack him.
Danny Diaz, Mr. Bush’s hard-charging campaign manager, has told people he would like to accelerate the assault on Mr. Rubio. At a briefing earlier this month for congressional chiefs of staff whose bosses are backing Mr. Bush, Mr. Diaz bragged about the size of their opposition research file on the senator, and said they were prepared to begin a full-scale attack, according to a presidential campaign veteran who was briefed on the conversation and requested anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Mike Murphy, the longtime adviser to Mr. Bush who now controls the super PAC, has told people he would like to go after Mr. Rubio but does not want to do so immediately after the debate because it could reinforce a perception of desperation.
I have just one question, and it can be distilled down to one word: WHY? What does going kamikaze on rightwing Dezi accomplish for Jeb? How does it help his "comeback kid" gimmick? The math doesn't add up. If the ex-Florida governor could glom Rubio's support tomorrow, he would vault all the way to.....roughly 15% in the polls, a distant third behind Carson and Trump. He'd be THE "establishment" candidate again, but so what? If anything should be abundantly clear by now, it's that "establishment" candidates are anathema to the GOP base in 2015. Equally obvious is that Rubio is a superior candidate to Jeb - younger, more articulate, more charismatic, more telegenic, more knowledgeable, more electable. If Jeb wanted to be a statesman instead of a spoiler, he would "take one for the team" and get out of Rubio's way.
Besides, trying to cut Rubio's balls off couldn't help but reinforce that perception of desperation whether it was now or a week or month from now. It would be a pathetic epilogue to a family political dynasty that has always prided itself above all else on selfless public service. And it would not accomplish its objective anymore than Jeb did on the debate stage Wednesday night.
Speaking of the perception of desperation and disarray:
The chief operating officer of Jeb Bush's struggling presidential campaign is reportedly out – the highest-ranking official to leave in a shakeup announced last week.
Christine Ciccone was responsible for logistics and got paid about $12,000 a month, the Wall Street Journal reports.
"We are grateful to have had Christine on the team, we respect her immensely," Bush spokesman Tim Miller tells the Journal.
You know what they say about "women and children first".....