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Yesterday was the Ides of March, which leads us in one of two directions: 1) Watching the so-so 2011 political thriller of the same name, featuring George Clooney and Ryan Gosling (why does fictional politics — Ides of March, House of Cards, Bob Roberts — involve Pennsylvania lawmakers of dubious morals?). 2) Or, given the events on this date in ancient Rome, pondering the intersection of statesmen, their supposed friends, and the wielding of knives.
Which leads us to the current goings-on between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Technically, it’s not a political backstabbing. Or even a shiv in the ribs.
It’s more like a death by a thousand cuts — in this case, Walker going out of his way to tell reporters that, while he likes and admires Bush, his co-leader in the Republican presidential chase, his good friend has the following liabilities: (1) unlike Walker, he’s not the son of a preacher, but instead a scion of political nobility (snip); (2) a third Bush male to run for president is little more than another Republican “name from the past” and destined to fail (three snips, as it’s also a swipe at Mitt Romney and John McCain).
And Bush’s reactions to the Jeb jabs?
1) Bush surrogates calling out Walker as a flip-flopper (snip) — remember, this is that odd time in a presidential cycle when unofficial spokespersons are speaking up for unofficial campaigns. That would include Bush friends Ana Navarro and Al Cardenas (in his case, taking to Twitter) going after the Wisconsin governor on immigration reform.
2) Bush, suggesting to reporters in New Hampshire, that Walker is anything but a frontrunner: “I’m not a candidate. I don’t think — maybe he is (snip) — I don’t know. You can’t be a front-runner until you start running,” (snip)
Two thoughts about what’s going on here:
1) What better news for Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who (a) apparently is faring well in the unofficial “Mitt Romney primary” and (b) outshines his 2016 GOP rivals in this Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll (numbers that are especially brutal for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in the under-the-radar competition to be the alternative to Walker and Bush).
2) When does the endorsement parade begin? We know that April will bring a spate of candidate announcements (thus getting a jump on second-quarter fundraising). But when do big names start lining up behind their guess for the nomination?
I ask because here’s a different way for Bush to respond to Walker: instead of campaign operatives doing the talking, let a governor defend Bush. The advantage being: it’s best the response come from outside the Beltway — and outside Florida, for that matter.
The problem: at this early stage in the race, and with the field anything but predictable, why would a big name choose sides? Three governors who come to mind: Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Pence. They have to decide if they’re running; if not, who gets their backing.
Final note: it’s not just Republicans doing a little carving. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has taken swipes at Hillary Clinton over soulless “triangulation”.
Et tu, Brute?