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February 2016

Jeb Bush's problem was never Donald Trump

“Please clap.”

It may have been the saddest moment in the political career of Jeb Bush – a moment when even he must have known that his campaign would soon end.

Everything was wrong with his campaign. He was the wrong candidate at the wrong time. He stubbornly stuck to talking points that had little resonance with voters.

Often, Bush sounded like an aging former high school quarterback talking about how he led his team to the state championship 20 years ago. His constant harping about his years as Florida governor (1999 to 2007) overshadowed the many policy papers he placed on his website outlining his vision for handling a wide variety of national issues.

His campaign never seemed to hit the right rhythm. Bush started with a “Right to Rise” theme that would quickly become the name of his super PAC. As that theme fizzled, the campaign came up with “Jeb Can Fix It” which was easily ridiculed by rivals who suggested it sound like he was a North Florida handyman. Jeb hed

Toward the end of his campaign the slogan switched again, this time to “Trusted Leadership” with all the resonance of a neighborhood bank. His slogans certainly did not stoke the imagination of “Make America Great Again.”

Bush’s prowess as a candidate was always a myth. Bush lost his first campaign for Florida governor in a close race against a sitting Democrat governor. When he ran again in 1998, the state’s GOP leadership cleared the field for him in the Republican primary. Bush went on to defeat Democratic Lt.Gov. Buddy, who ran a dismal campaign. Bush won reelection in 2002 running against a Tampa-based lawyer who had never run for political office.

What Bush did have was tremendous family connections built over six decades in Washington politics that helped him raise an incredible $150 million – most of which went to Right to Rise. In fact, so much of the money went to R2R that Bush legally could not tell R2R how to spend money. It was a little like George Patton going into Europe during WWII with someone else in charge of his tanks.

As he did in his unsuccessful 1994 campaign, Bush became JEB! The third child of George and Barbara would use the last name to raise money and campaign for him, but he wanted the voters to see him as just Jeb.

As he said in this campaign, Bush remained determined to be his “own man.” It was always a silly notion. With a father and brother as presidents, Bush only appeared disingenuous to suggest his last name didn’t matter. Finally, in the desperate final days of the South Carolina campaign he brought both his mother and older brother to campaign for him.

During most of the last nine months, Bush seem flummoxed by the very idea that the Republican Party his family helped build could possibly consider someone as outside of the Grand Old Party as Donald Trump. Bush wasted many months refusing to take Trump seriously. Right to Rise had a detailed plan for taking out Marco Rubio, but it too seemed to be following Bush into the Trump abyss.

Bush has always considered himself the smartest person in the room. He is thin skinned and takes the smallest slights as personal affront. He is accustomed to surrounding himself with younger acolytes who worship him and rarely confront him. A prince in a royal family, Bush was ill-prepared to deal with a loud bully. Bush thought a mere wave of the hand would be enough to dismiss Trump’s shout that Bush was low energy.

Continue reading "Jeb Bush's problem was never Donald Trump" »

Jeb Bush and the question of dynasty

Jeb artWhen Jeb Bush’s big brother showed up in South Carolina to campaign for him, the Bush family squarely presented voters with this question – Do you want to continue their seven decades-old political dynasty?

There has never been anything quite like the Bushes in American politics. From Prescott Bush who entered the United States Senate in 1952 to George P. Bush who was elected to statewide office (land commissioner) in Texas in 2014, the Bush family is not only asking Americans to elect a third Bush president, but the fourth may be in waiting.

A year after his father left the Senate in 1963 - Prescott Bush represented Connecticut – George H.W. Bush ran for the U.S. Senate from Texas. Bush lost, but it was the start of his nearly non-stop political presence that lasted until he left the White House in 1993.

A year later, George W. Bush would become governor of Texas. His brother would become Florida’s governor four years later. As George W was leaving the White House in 2009, years of wondering if Jeb would run got louder.

Now he is and Americans must decide whether one family should have so much power.

In one sense it is unfair to Jeb. He rightly believes he should be measured by his own skills. During most of his presidential campaign he repeatedly reminded voters that he is “proud to be a Bush but I am my own man.”

This was always only partly true. Bush’s campaign relied heavily on Bush family friends and donors who have helped make the Bushes a political power. Now, Jeb carries not just the enormous burden of winning the Republican nomination, but of not harming the Bush family legacy.

For some voters, to hear a candidate rail against the politics of Washington when one’s family has been part of Washington for decades can sound hollow.

For some voters, the idea of a third Bush presidency can give a chill no matter the first name.

At the moment, Jeb’s own stumbles have delayed the conversation about dynasty. Should his campaign recover, the question of dynasty will move to the front of the debate.

It will be a difficult question to answer.

Donald Trump surprise ad in South Carolina takes campaign in new direction

The murder of a black teenager is featured in a new ad being shown in South Carolina from Donald Trump's campaign. 
The 30-second ad focuses on the 2008 murder of 17=year old Jamiel Shaw, Jr.  The teenager was killed by an illegal immigrant. Jamiel's father, is featured in the ad.
Jamiel Shaw, Sr. says in the ad the Trump is the only one talking about stopping illegal immigration. "I believe Donald Trump is going to make us great again and he loves America," says Mr. Shaw.
It is a powerful, and certain to be controversial campaign ad.





Jeb Bush would eliminate Citizens United

Jeb Bush, who raised more than $120 million for the Right to Rise Super PAC, said he favors a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that allows such PACs to operate untethered.

During a speech today before the Rotary Club in Nashua, New Hampshire, Bush said he believes one remedy is for candidate campaigns to be able to receive unlimited contributions and be held "personally accountable and responsible" for the money received. Bush said there would need to be "total transparency" about "the amounts of money and who gives it. And have it with 48 hour turn-around."

Earlier in the day, Bush told CNN, that now there, "is a ridiculous system we have now where you have campaigns that struggle to raise money directly and they can't be held accountable for the spending of the super PAC that's their affiliate."

Right to Rise is, by far, the largest presidential super PAC. It is run by Bush's long-time campaign adviser Mike Murphy. The PAC has spent more than $70 million on campaign activity, according to some reports.

Neither in his speech nor during his appearance on CNN, did Bush say whether he would be willing to publicly urge Murphy to rapidly disclose donors and expenditures. Bush cannot direct Murphy to take any action because federal law forbids coordination between the Bush campaign and Right to Rise.

Still, Bush could make a public statement urging Murphy to meet the candidate's goal of 48-hour disclosures.

Bush also told Rotary members that he believes the time has come for a constitutional convention that would  look at amendments for requiring a balanced federal budget, a line-item veto for the president, and term limits for Congress.



New York Times explores Joe Scarborough and Marco Rubio feud

Is there a feud between Marco Rubio and Joe Scarborough? The New York Times explores this question and comes up with some interesting answers. 

An excerpt:

In an election season marked by animosity, egos and insults, this feud transcends media, politics and state lines. It follows two men from the swamps of Florida politics to a presidential cycle in which Mr. Rubio, 44, has emerged as a leading candidate, and Mr. Scarborough, 52, as one of his fiercest critics.

. . .

On the surface, the fight seems to be a classic case of a celebrity host being snubbed and his feelings being hurt: Mr. Rubio has appeared on “Morning Joe” just once since becoming a senator.

While Mr. Rubio has boycotted the program, its hosts have derided him for everything from his fashion choices (“shagalicious”) to his lack of legislative accomplishments, producing the kind of memorable moments that have taken off on social media.

. . .

But many of Mr. Rubio’s allies, and even some pundits, view Mr. Scarborough’s distaste for him as driven by something more elemental: envy.

“Almost every election cycle since Joe left Congress, there is talk that he should run for U.S. Senate, governor, or something else,” said Brian Crowley, a former Florida political reporter, adding that after Mr. Rubio became the Florida House speaker, “he started crowding that space.” Mr. Scarborough is a former Republican congressman from the state’s panhandle.

Mr. Rubio and Mr. Scarborough have never actually met. But, as Mr. Crowley noted, Mr. Scarborough was known to think highly of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, and had ties to Charlie Crist, whom Mr. Rubio defeated in the 2010 Senate race.

Mr. Scarborough dismissed such talk. “I don’t know Marco well enough to resent him,” he said. “I am paid to be an analyst, a political analyst, to tell viewers and influencers what my take is on the political system.”

Read the full New York Times story here.