Sunday, February 21, 2016

The disappointing clown leaves

Today, after a dismal showing in South Carolina, former Florida Governor John Ellis “Jeb” Bush dropped out of the campaign for the Republican nomination for president. With the way the campaign played out, this was no surprise, but seven or eight months ago, most would never have seen this coming.

Bush entered the race in June with a massive lead in fundraising, and immediately chose to be called just “Jeb!”. Like a lot of people, I mocked him for that, referring to him later on as “Jeb! (just don’t say) Bush”. Back in June, I highlighted why he might want to run away from the name Bush, but to the Republicans who still get misty-eyed over the Bush-Cheney regime, it must’ve seemed like an insult.

But his silly campaign name isn’t the only thing that did him in (though it's a symbol).

First, and most obviously, none of the pundits picked up on the rabid anti-Washington mood among the Republican Party’s most frothing base. Bush, for all his many, many faults, simply isn’t as nasty as either Cruz or Trump, nor unquestionably a religiously extremist like Cruz, Rubio, and Carson. What did he have to offer the Republican base?

His best hope was selling himself to younger Republicans, who are not extremists or theocrats like their elders. But, as I also pointed out last June, “Voters who turn 18 by election Day 2016 were four years old the last time Jeb (just don’t say) Bush ran for anything.” This gets to the core of his second problem: His own campaign was incompetent, unable to organise a piss-up in a brewery, as Kiwis put it.

Bush, despite his huge advantage in money at the beginning, steadily lost the ability to raise big bucks—so much so, that if he’d kept going, he’d eventually run out of money completely. Well, at least his massive (but pointless) campaign spending helped fuel the economies of some states.

The Bush campaign reinforced the shallowness of the USA’s political punditocracy—empty-headed puffed-up ideologues who proclaim things to be true simply because they want them to be so. Pundits aligned with both parties once proclaimed that Bush and Clinton were shoe-ins for the their parties’ nominations. The Republican pundits went on to declare that Bush would win the November contest they predicted, and the Democratic pundits obviously saw such that match-up rather differently.

Things look very different now. The Republican contest has come down to Trump, Cruz, and Rubio, all of whom are flat-out nuts. Pundits are now saying that with Bush out of the race, the Republican elites and establishment will coalesce around Rubio, since they deeply despise both Cruz and Trump. However, the pundits’ track record on predicting anything correctly has been terrible this year, so there’s no reason to think they’re right. John Kasich may pick up Bush’s small support, which would lift him all the way up to fourth place! Ironically, he’s probably the only candidate who might have a shot of doing well in November, but he’s unlikely to make it that far.

We know for certain that Trump, Cruz, and Rubio will battle it out for weeks to come, and that if Kasich does pick up Bush’s support, he could hang on, too. However, the end of Ben Carson’s campaign can’t be far away.

This also ends the Bush Dynasty for now. Jeb’s kids (or, maybe just the one without the legal problems) may end up running for higher office one day, but by then no one will remember the dynasty or its players. I’m not even sure their family connections will matter very much by then.

And so ends the campaign of Jeb! (just don’t say) Bush, one of the biggest clowns candidates to tumble off the Republican Clown Bus. He turned out to be a huge disappointment to the elites and establishment of the Republican Party, who are now desperate for a candidate who can appeal to mainstream voters in November. However, their biggest disappointment will come when the party actually has its nominee. The Republican Party has no one to blame for that disaster but itself.

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