Jeb Bush has effectively been running for president for an entire year, traversing the country to collect benefactors’ checks, recruit staff, tackle fickle voters’ questions, and pledge, time and time again, that he would “show his heart” to win over the Republican primary electorate.
He has little to show for it.
Bush announced on Facebook last Dec. 16 that he would explore a 2016 Republican presidential bid. Prohibitive favorite, pundits asserted. Presumed front-runner. Political juggernaut.
A year later, Bush enters Tuesday night’s GOP primary debate in fifth place in many national polls, a drop that began in July, only a month after Bush formally launched his candidacy. The millions spent on his behalf for advertising — about $45 million by the Right to Rise USA super PAC, more than for any other candidate — may have halted his slide, but they’ve failed to move his numbers up.
The real juggernaut turned out to be celebrity real-estate developer Donald Trump, who steamrolled into the race a day after Bush.
Republicans don’t start making decisions until the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, which Bush’s camp has never expected to win. Voters in New Hampshire, who cast ballots Feb. 9, tend to make up their minds at the last minute, so Bush’s campaign insists he still has time to improve. Early polls, they like to say, aren’t necessarily predictive.
But a month ago, Bush was privately telling political donors that Trump’s popularity would be on the wane by Dec. 15. He was wrong: A national Monmouth University poll released Monday showed the real-estate magnate garnering his highest support yet, 27 percentage points ahead of his nearest competitor, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump led Cruz 41-14 percent.
Bush’s tally? Three percent. And the former Florida governor is faring only marginally better in state-by-state polls.
His campaign largely blames the Trump effect.
Photo credit: Jim Cole, Associated Press