Bush Whacked

Mark Steyn

By Mark Steyn

Published Feb. 22, 2016

Meet the Bushes.

Following his fourth- (or possibly fifth-) place finish in South Carolina, Jeb Bush has ended his campaign to be president. I said pretty much everything I had to say about him:

There are over 300 million people in this country, and, granted that 57 per cent or whatever it's up to by now are fine upstanding members of the Undocumented-American community, what is it about the Bush family that makes them so indispensable to the Republic as to supply three presidential candidates within a quarter-century?

Jeb never had a good answer to that question, and his lackluster performance on the stump suggested that there isn't one. But the Donor-Industrial Complex loved him:

'Many if not most of 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney's major donors are reaching out to Bush and his confidants with phone calls, e-mails and invitations to meet, according to interviews with 30 senior Republicans. One bundler estimated that the "vast majority" of Romney's top 100 donors would back Bush in a competitive nomination fight.

'"He's the most desired candidate out there," said another bundler, Brian Ballard, who sat on the national finance committees for Romney in 2012 and John McCain in 2008. "Everybody that I know is excited about it."'

"Everybody that I know is excited about it": Mr Ballard really needs to get out of the house more. In an Iowa town hall or New Hampshire diner, nobody was excited about Jeb. Nevertheless, Mike Murphy, head of Bush's SuperPac, confidently asserted that if you had enough donors you didn't need voters. Four months ago, he confidently explained where the race would be round about now:

We see Feb. 1 to March 15, 45 days, as our period to seize the nomination and get in front—and there are a lot of states and a lot of congressional districts and a lot of targeting to that. One of the reasons we've worked so hard and Jeb, frankly, has inspired so many people to donate to us is so we have the resources to pursue that campaign. Most of these other guys are all running on spec. We're at a point now where we're significantly funded for those 45 days, cash in the bank today. Nobody else is in that situation in this race. Nobody's close...

For most of these guys, it's: Well, lightning's going to strike, Jindal-mania is going to hit the New Hampshire primary, I'm going to win and I'm suddenly going to turn around a ton of money and then I'm going to run the momentum all the way through March. Here's the problem with that: let's say it's the 10th of February, you have won the New Hampshire primary two days ago. You're only 20 days out so you should be on the air already...

March 1, yeah. And so how do you turn enough money on to actually get on the air fast enough to have an impact? Well, what does 1,400 points—decent, well-targeted points—cost in the March 1 states? About 26 million bucks.

Twenty-six million here, twenty-six million there... The Bush campaign managed to halve the cost of each vote they got between Iowa ($2,800) and New Hampshire ($1,300), but it still wasn't enough. Bruce Ballard and the other geniuses lost every nickel of the 100 million bucks they bet on Bush. As I said two years ago:

The guys who picked last season's loser are already excited about next season's loser. How exciting is that?

~What of the bloke who won South Carolina? Mike Murphy four months ago:

He's dead politically, he'll never be president of the United States, ever. By definition I don't think you can be a front-runner if you're totally un-electable. I think there's there an a-priori logic problem in that.

To Murphy, Trump was a "zombie frontrunner". As it turned out, the real rotting husk of the walking dead was Mike Murphy's business model. Me four months ago:

Murphy dismisses Trump - and now presumably Carson, too - as a "zombie frontrunner" because they're not behaving the way they're supposed to: You're meant to hire guys like Murphy and bulk up your payroll with a seven-figure campaign HQ operation that blows through millions of dollars on soft-focus campaign ads about how you had a tough but inspirational upbringing as the son of a mailman or, in Jeb's case, the son of a one-term president. The consultants get a percentage of the bazillion-dollar ad buy, and the super-donors admire it because it looks like all the other cookie-cutter ads they fondly recall from the Romney campaign, and the McCain campaign, and the Dole campaign...

Then Donald Trump turns up. He has an issue, but it's the one the consultant class advise you to go nowhere near with a ten-foot pole, so he snaffles it up all to himself. He spends nothing on ads, because he's sucking up all the free airtime in the 15 minutes between the stupid irritating soft-focus commercials. His biggest expense is hats and T-shirts. He has no endorsements from former senators and former congressmen and former this and former that, because they're losers and nobody remembers who they are. Not being a career politician, he feels no need to pretend to be an average working stiff, because he's not.

And the consultants' response to all this is to complain that Trump's not doing it right.

Trump may, indeed, have a ceiling around 33-35 per cent of the primary vote. But where are his rivals' ceilings? Marco Rubio bounced back from his humiliation in New Hampshire to a distant second place. But, considering he had the much coveted Nikki Haley endorsement, that's not an impressive result - and even if every single one of Jeb's votes go to Marco (which they won't - because John Kasich has all the more reason to stick around till Ohio) that still doesn't get Rubio near Trump.

As for Ted Cruz, the Palmetto State has to be accounted a disappointment. We were told that New Hampshire was too "moderate" and "libertarian" for his particular brand of conservatism and that South Carolina was a much better fit. But he came in exactly the same place - third - and this time without any delegates.

~As for the Nevada Democrat primary, one is sympathetic to Bernie Sanders because he's operating within a much more corrupt party machine whose superdelegates have already been snaffled up by Mrs Clinton. But that's all the more reason why he needs to win these caucus states instead of just kinda sorta almost tying Hillary. The difference between Trump's hijacking of the GOP primary and Sanders' attempt to do likewise to the Democrats is the difference between a fellow who means it and a guy who lacks the killer instinct.

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Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human rights activist. His latest book is "The Undocumented Mark Steyn: Don't Say You Weren't Warned". (Buy it at a 32% discount by clicking here or order in KINDLE edition at a 50% discount by clicking here. Sales help fund JWR)