Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio Throw Tantrums Over Low Poll Numbers
Policy + Politics

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio Throw Tantrums Over Low Poll Numbers

These are troubled times for the two Republican golden boys from Florida. Former governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio are seeing their prospects for winning their party’s presidential nomination crumble as billionaire Donald Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson lead the polls.

Bush, 62,  the scion of a powerful political family, has seen his once promising prospects and fundraising prowess fade after he repeatedly failed to find a voice that could animate his party, show he was truly his “own man” and transcend his ties to the GOP political establishment.

Related: The Art of the Troll: How Donald Trump Sent Jeb Bush into a Tailspin

Rubio, 44, the quintessential young man with strong ties to the Hispanic community, leaped into the presidential contest with less than one full term in the Senate under his belt. Since then, he has been tarnished among conservatives by his previous support for immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

Neither man is doing well in the polls: Bush, the one-time frontrunner, scored just 7 percent in the latest Washington Post/ABC News national poll, while Rubio was just ahead of him with 10 percent.

Trump, the hard-charging, ever-insulting frontrunner, has bashed Bush repeatedly for being a “low energy” candidate on the wrong side of the immigration issue who would be weak in standing up to ISIS and other U.S. enemies. He has also criticized Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush, for allowing the 9/11 terror attacks to happen on his watch and for leading the country into a war in Iraq that ultimately led to the rise of ISIS.

As a prank, Trump’s campaign in October sent the youthful Rubio a CARE package containing a 24-bottle case of “Trump Ice Natural Spring Water” and two “Make America Great Again” towels. The joke was that Rubio sweats a lot and once got dry mouth delivering a Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Trump has also repeatedly berated Rubio for missing so many votes on the Senate floor.

Bush, who once said he would seek the presidency “joyfully,” seemed to approach the breaking point last weekend after disclosing 40 percent cuts in his campaign budget because of slumping contributions and rumors that he might have to drop out of the campaign. In a rant on Sunday, Bush declared in South Carolina on Sunday:

“If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want anything, I don’t want any part of it.  I don’t want to be elected president to sit around and see gridlock just become so dominant that people literally are in decline in their lives. That is not my motivation. I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do other than sit around, be miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

Related: Inside Jeb Bush’s Relentless Downhill Slide

Rubio has also showed a thin skin, allowing Trump’s barbs about him being AWOL from the Senate for months to get to him. With still more than a year to go in his first term, the former Florida House Speaker has fumed that serving in the Senate is a terrible, frustrating job, and that many of his proposals have floundered or died in committee. Last Tuesday was the first time in 26 days that he cast a floor vote, according to The Washington Post.

“That’s why I’m missing votes,” he said in the last GOP debate, after Trump had criticized him for his unusual record of absenteeism from the Senate floor. “Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection.”

While freshman Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) made sure he could run simultaneously for president and reelection to the Senate, Rubio decided long ago that one term in the Senate was more than enough for him.

“These comments didn't help either one of them,” said Larry J. Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said of Bush and Rubio – and for good reason. Regardless of how well or poorly a politician is doing in a high stakes  campaign, voters typically are turned off by candidates who belittle the office they are seeking or currently holding, regardless of their perception of the performance of government.

Related: Should Marco Rubio Be Fired? By His Own Standards, Maybe

American’s confidence in all three branches of government has fallen in recent years, according to Gallup, reaching record lows last year of 30 percent for the Supreme Court, 29 percent for the presidency and a mere 7 percent for Congress. Disparaging remarks by Jeb Bush and Rubio – not to mention Trump’s almost non-stop attacks on the White House and Congress – can only further diminish Americans’ respect for public institutions.

But it goes even beyond that. Bush and Rubio are coming across like entitled, petulant children, enraged that the game isn’t going their way.

“One of Bush's problems is the idea of entitlement that stems from a dynasty,” Sabato said in an email. “His remarks reflect Bush's frustrations, but they also have the tinge of an entitled legacy candidate who is angry the nomination isn't being handed over.”

As for Rubio, “Missing a shockingly large number of Senate votes while seeking another office appears as overweening ambition, not to mention dereliction of duty,” Sabato said. “Rubio's critics will say his obligation is to be in the Senate, fighting for the changes he believes are important, whatever the odds. Jimmy Stewart would not approve; he faced much tougher odds in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”