As his sputtering presidential campaign remains on political life support, the typically polite and demure Jeb Bush is desperately lashing out at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and others in the Republican field.
During the campaign Bush has called Trump a “buffoon,” “clown,” “jerk,” “bully,” a “chaos candidate” with “crazy” ideas about foreign policy, and not “a serious candidate.” Establishment Republicans like Bush are savaging Trump with a ferocity they rarely deploy against Democrats.
These increasingly vicious attacks are coming from the Bush family scion because this is his last chance in the 2016 primary race. Without strong showings in early voting states he faces electoral oblivion.
Trump has long been crushing Bush in the polls and around 20 percent of Democratic voters polled say they would abandon their own party and vote for Trump in the general election should he become the GOP nominee. (Only 14 percent of Republican voters say they would vote for Hillary Clinton should Trump secure his party’s nomination.)
So Bush is attacking Trump, accusing him of being an interloper in the Republican Party. This is a curious approach because Trump’s image as a sincere albeit abrasive political outsider who can’t be bought or controlled by elites is precisely what makes him so attractive as a candidate among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. Outsiders are in; partisan yes men are out.
Although Trump has successfully tapped into voters’ anger, he remains a “buddy of the Clintons” and is not a true conservative, Bush said on the viewer-less MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
“He’s the only person on the stage that’s given money to Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton’s campaign and their foundation,” Bush said.
“I think he’s probably the only guy that invited Hillary Clinton to one of his weddings. His views are closer aligned to Hillary Clinton’s than that of a conservative,” said the most aggressively pro-open borders candidate in the Republican field.
“How can he beat Hillary Clinton when we get into the general election? He’ll get crushed.”
Bush’s claim that Trump is still the Clintons’ “buddy” seems particularly ludicrous given that the real estate investor is the only candidate who has gone for Hillary’s jugular.
Trump aggressively mocks Hillary. He called her extended bathroom break during the Democrats’ pre-Christmas debate “disgusting,” said she lacks “the strength or the stamina” to be president, and ridiculed her for getting “schlonged” by Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries that had been hers to lose. Even more significantly he is the only Republican with the political guts to go after her disgraceful complicity in her husband’s serial abuses of women.
And Bush, like so many Republican elites, is personally cozy with former Secretary of State Clinton. The politically tone-deaf Bush presented the Liberty Medal to Clinton on Sept. 10, 2013 – the eve of the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya – when he was chairman of the board of trustees of the National Constitution Center, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit. (U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty could not be reached for comment.)
Of course, Hillary, the progressive, Alinskyite former senator and first lady who has long been at war with the Constitution, seems an unlikely recipient of a medal from an organization chartered by Congress to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis.” The Center indicated she was given the honor “in recognition of her lifelong career in public service and for her ongoing advocacy efforts on behalf of women and girls around the globe.”
Presumably Hillary’s efforts to smear and silence the women victimized by her sexual-predator husband were not taken into account in medal deliberations.
During last month candidates’ debate, Bush labeled Trump “a chaos candidate” who’d be “a chaos president,” and not “the commander-in-chief we need to keep our country safe.”
Trump shot back saying “Jeb doesn’t really believe I’m unhinged. He said that very simply because he has failed in this campaign. It’s been a total disaster. Nobody cares. And frankly, I’m the most solid person up here. I built a tremendous company and all I want to do is make America great again.”
It’s hard to argue with Trump’s assessment of Bush’s motives.
Bush’s attacks on other candidates are relatively mild, restrained in tone, and often fact-based.
After describing himself as “a reform-minded conservative that got to do big things,” Jeb criticized New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last month, accusing him of poor management. Florida was “AAA bond-rated” but New Jersey has “had credit downgrades,” Bush said. “We led the nation in job growth. New Jersey hasn’t done as well.”
An ad by the pro-Jeb super PAC, Right to Rise, implied Bush was a better governor than Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich because Bush, unlike his two rivals, opposed Medicaid expansion in 2013 in his state. (Bush had already left office in Florida but he reportedly worked behind the scene to fight the expansion.)
Bush campaign adviser April Ponnuru attacked Carly Fiorina this past September for “[a]s recently as 2013” supporting “Obamacare’s most hated feature: the individual mandate.” Fiorina acknowledged her past support for the mandate but said she longer does.
Bush smeared Cruz and Rubio in October 2013 for trying to defund Obamacare, a move that led to a partial government shutdown. “Tactically it was a mistake to focus on something that couldn’t be achieved,” Bush said. Republican senators’ tactics, which helped reinvigorate opposition to Obamacare and cleared the way for the GOP landslide in 2014, were “embarrassing,” Jeb said at the time.
In a petty move, Bush has criticized Rubio for missing Senate votes and hearings. Right to Rise echoed Bush in attack ads. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Nov. 1, Bush mocked the three sitting U.S. senators in the GOP race – Cruz, Rubio, and Rand Paul – for not being governors. Jeb said that, unlike that trio, he “got to be governor of a state and accomplish[ed] big things.”
Bush who, despite having been regarded as having a fairly conservative track record in Florida, has lurched to the left since leaving the governor’s mansion.
Bush pretends to be conservative but has made it clear in other ways that he’s not. In 2013 he said in the Oval Office he would emulate “War on Poverty” Democrat icon Lyndon Johnson. In 2014 Bush said he might have to “lose the primary to win the general [election]” in 2016. By this he meant he’d pursue centrist voters during primary season so he wouldn’t have to lurch from the right to the center after winning the nomination.
Bush’s stratagem isn’t working.
At time of writing, Trump was leading the Republican pack nationally. According to RealClearPolitics averages, Trump is at 34 percent, followed by Ted Cruz (20.7 percent), Marco Rubio (11.7 percent), Ben Carson (10.0 percent), Chris Christie (4.3 percent), and Jeb Bush (3.7 percent). Bush peaked nationally at 17.8 percent on July 13 last year.
In New Hampshire, Trump is polling 31 percent, followed by Rubio (13.3 percent), Cruz (10.5 percent), and Bush in fourth place at 10 percent. Bush peaked in that state at 17 percent on April 11 last year. In Iowa, Trump has (27.4 percent) trailing Cruz (30.2 percent). Bush is far behind in fifth place at 4.8 percent). Bush peaked at 14 percent from April 14 through April 23 last year.
Bush can’t even catch a break in his home state of Florida where he was governor from 1999 to 2007. In the Sunshine State, Trump is polling at 33 percent, followed by Cruz (21 percent), Rubio (16 percent), and with Bush far behind at 11 percent.
Bush’s net favorable rating among Republicans has collapsed since he launched his campaign last summer. Bush began the cycle with a net favorable rating of +27 (54 percent favorable, 27 percent unfavorable). But as of Jan. 5 it was below water, falling to -1 (44 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable), absolute rock bottom among Republican candidates, according to Gallup.
If Jeb Bush thinks he can secure the GOP nomination by insulting Donald Trump, he’s got another thing coming.