It’s been a tough few months for the assumed candidate and once-assumed frontrunner for the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush. As the Washington Post recently detailed, the sheen of inevitable dominance has been corroded away by a million little incidents, leaving the conservative world far less eager for him to officially make it official.
The list of Bush’s mistakes is long for a campaign that theoretically doesn’t exist. For a man who says he doesn’t like hypotheticals, he has hypothetically been running for six months, making sure to always add “ifs” and “woulds” in appropriate places to avoid infringing campaign laws.
All that extra time was meant to coalesce support, but instead Bush has seen it eaten away by missed goals, mismanagement, and stupid remarks.
To begin with, the money isn’t there like it was supposed to be. He set out to raise $100 million in donations and has reportedly fallen short. He may still set a record for his fundraising, but it is certain to feel less miraculous if it has less than eight zeroes in front of it.
Perhaps more pressing than arbitrary dollar marks, he’s had trouble really getting his pseudo-campaign off the ground. Difficulties setting up a campaign base and struggled through internal friction within the campaign have left Bush reorganizing his organization only days before he is set to announce his true and honest candidacy.
His messaging and meet-and-greets have not endeared him to new voters. There is that viral video of a college students chewing out the former-governor with Bush hardly managing a reply. And there are plenty of examples of his brusk and less-attractive side coming out whenever he finds himself pushed to give an answer he doesn’t feel like giving.
And then there’s Iraq: the quagmire his brother started, the one question he knew would be coming from now until November 2016. His faulty hearing, his flubbed answers, his awkward hostility to legitimate questions: it certainly doesn’t send the message of a man ready for the biggest spotlight in the world.
All of these issues have conspired to make Bush into the one thing he must surely dread the most: not his father or his brother, but Mitt Romney.
Like Mitt Romney, he is watching every new candidate get a shot at the spotlight. There’s a growing sense of an “anyone but a Bush” movement within the party as the less-qualified and even unqualified rise up to meet him in the polls.
But remember, this is only an almost-candidacy. Perhaps Jeb Bush is holding back the good stuff until he announces. Perhaps things will click into alignment by primary season. Mitt Romney may have struggled to hold anyone’s attention or to coalesce much sincere support before the primaries, but he did finally see off his opponents one by one in the slog to nomination.
Of course, Mitt didn’t prove to have much juice after he got that nomination. The support he tried to build over the years piddled out by the time any votes were cast, with Obama doing just about as well in his second election as he did in his first. This despite the president’s low poll numbers and the unpopularity of his chief accomplishments.
Perhaps candidate Bush can outdo that. Perhaps he’s got what it takes. But so far in his almost-candidacy, he’s not showing any sign of it.