Reports have emerged over the last couple of weeks that many members of the Bush family donor and supporter network have ceased funneling contributions to the Jeb Bush campaign and are now standing by for consent from the family to donate to other candidates. This is little surprise at this point in the race.
Jeb Bush might have been an effective candidate in previous elections, and his son, George P. Bush, might be a contender in future elections. But 2016 is perhaps the worst time for him to declare his candidacy. Not only is it the Year of Donald Trump— a man whose rancor, vagueness and brutal, off-the-cuff, take-no- prisoners verbal assaults make him perfect foil to the wonkish and more withdrawn Bush—but it’s also the year of the outsiders. Anti-establishment candidates like Cruz and Sanders have wrecked the typical establishment paradigm with their vicious campaigns against “the Washington cartel,” which has “rigged” the economy against the middle class. They do not aim to improve Washington but to purify it, and voters appear to share that sentiment.
That being the case, this is the worst year to have the last name Bush with all that it entails. Even worse for Jeb is he and his campaign raised the expectations sky high: they promised to over- whelm potential contenders with a “shock and awe” campaign, which would take full advantage of the Citizens United decision to use super-PACS to raise enough money to scare off most would- be primary challengers and crush the ones who remained.
Unfortunately for Jeb, these expectations were not met. He was perceived—fairly or not—as entitled, arrogant and overconfident.
So Jeb is dead in the water, and almost certainly doomed as soon as Trump, Cruz or perhaps Rubio wins the New Hampshire primary. Who benefits? Most likely Rubio. Many of the donors in Florida who feel a sense of loyalty or obligation to Jeb and have either supported him or held off on supporting any candidate but who view Rubio as the more electable and electric candidate will be freed up to support the young senator. Likewise, Jeb is the only figure who has even an outside shot of claiming the “establishment contender” mantle. Likewise, Jeb is the only figure who has even an outside shot of claiming the “establishment contender” mantle aside from Rubio, so once he drops out of the picture, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a rapid coalescence of support around Rubio by establishment and moderate republicans.