From the beginning of his campaign, Jeb Bush has been a disappointment. Not because hardcore conservatives don’t trust his position on immigration; not because he lacks the fire in his belly to be president; and not because he doesn’t have a ground game in place to compete with Ben Carson and Donald Trump.
No, Bush’s fundamental problem is two-pronged. He has shown poor judgment in creating a solid, strategic campaign to compete with other Republican candidates, and like his father and brother he has a problem articulating ideas and reactions to events and questions. Call him verbally challenged.
Examples of Bush’s ill-spoken comments are growing.
On gun control: After a shooting on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, he said, “Look, stuff happens …”
On health care: Answering a question about Medicare, he said, “We need to figure out a way to phase out this program …” Yikes! Regarding Planned Parenthood, he declared, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars in funding for women’s health programs.” So much for the women’s vote.
On getting to 4 percent GDP: “It means that people need to work longer hours.”
There’s more, of course. None of these comments is as bad as they are in isolation, but a savvy, strategic politician would know that any word or phrase can make or break a political career or legacy — see “Read my lips,” “the 47 percent,” “Mission Accomplished,” and “You Can Keep Your Doctor”
That brings us to tonight’s debate and the potential Bush vs. Rubio face-off. The New York Times reported Monday night that Bush’s backers are preparing an ad campaign of “scathing attacks” in an effort to stem Rubio’s rise. But leaking campaign strategy to The Times might go down as another Bush misstep: Rubio made a preemptive strike by releasing an amazing ad of Jeb Bush endorsing him enthusiastically in four separate clips. “He’s probably the most articulate conservative on the scene today,” Bush is shown saying, “and the fortitude to be a good president.”
Rubio got the better of Bush at the last debate after Bush attacked his voting record. Rubio shot back, “I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you. My campaign is going to be about the future of America, it’s not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage.”
Bam! It took about one minute for Rubio to demolish Bush, who never saw it coming.
If nothing else, Rubio has shown he knows how to be strategic.