Why Jeb?

 
1200px-Jeb_Bush_by_Gage_Skidmore_5

Jeb Bush by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 3.0

I never took Jeb Bush’s campaign seriously because it seemed like such an obviously bad idea: Bush hadn’t been elected to office in nearly a decade, during which time he’d made a name for himself by championing a singularly unpopular education policy (Common Core) and admonishing the party on the one issue it had previously shown itself willing to go into full opposition on (illegal immigration). Moreover, there’s the whole business of his last name, about which… well, I hardly need say more. As many predicted, his lead evaporated upon contact with voters and his $155M war chest earned him not a single delegate. And while I can’t say this with certainty, I’m confident that things wouldn’t have panned out very differently for Bush if Donald Trump hadn’t run (how Trump’s candidacy would have fared without Bush is an interesting question). Republican voters just weren’t hankering for another Bush, let alone Jeb.

Regardless, something convinced a few thousand relatively-wealthy voters to part with an average of $26,600 each in the name of nominating Jeb Bush. This might make sense if Bush had been the only hawkish immigration squish, but there’s also this guy named Marco Rubio and I gather he was available. In short, the donors’ behavior makes no sense to me, either from a principled or a cynical viewpoint. As Megan McArdle put it last week in a postmortem on the primaries:

I have nothing against Bush as a man or a governor. But his decision to run for president in this cycle has to rank as one of the stupidest political bids of all time [… S]omehow, Jeb Bush not only threw his hat in the ring, but also managed to convince Republican donors to come along for the ride. To Bush, I am sympathetic. His brother gets unfair blame for things that are not really his fault, and it can be hard to see yourself, or your family, with the crystal clarity of an outsider. The Republican donors have no such excuse. These folks suddenly and for no apparent reason decided that it would be a great idea to donate a hundred million dollars to the cause of running a completely hopeless establishment candidate. And as soon as it became clear he couldn’t win, they incinerated the remainder of the bundle taking down Rubio, the only candidate who could plausibly unite enough of the party’s factions to stop Trump at the voting booth. When those donors are sitting in their living rooms, wondering how on earth their beloved party has come to this pass, I invite them to get up and take a long look in the nearest mirror.

Can anybody offer a credible explanation as to why this happened? These donors are many things, but they’re generally not stupid.

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  1. JayCee Member
    JayCee
    @JayCee

    Hubris.  Trump is Nemesis.

    • #1
  2. Josh Farnsworth Member
    Josh Farnsworth
    @

    Pre-Trump he had the highest name ID in the general so he was able to raise money, post Trump he could not credibly abandon his candidacy until he went 0-3 in the early states.

    • #2
  3. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Can anybody offer a credible explanation as to why this happened? These donors are many things, but they’re generally not stupid.

    You’re not going to like mine I suspect: the West, including America, is shifting towards an aristocracy.

    Jeb had a family name that counted him as the right sort of people; personal and family connections count in an aristocracy more than suitability for a job or the reality on the ground.

    As regulations increase to keep the rabble out of wealth and power and government jobs are handed out as political favors to family friends (see Ronan Farrow) the people at the top come in increasingly less contact with anyone not like them and become increasingly disconnected from the view of the man on the street. That man on the street is less a fellow American and more an unruly prole who needs to be told what to do for their own good.

    Listen to Andrew Klavan tell that story about the Republican office holder talking about using the Tea Party again sometime.

    • #3
  4. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    If Jeb would not have been successful even without Trump in the race I think it is also true that Rubio would not have been successful without Jeb in the race.

    • #4
  5. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN
    1. IHe would have Bern a qtrat president writing this from the Miami waterfront
    • #5
  6. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    MarciN: He would have Bern a qtrat president writing this from the Miami waterfront

    A few mohitos?  ;)

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN
    • New smartphone
    • #7
  8. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    I’d like to say his attraction was due to his efforts to prevent the judicial murder of Terri Schiavo and his support for school choice, but these just aren’t issues that motivate the Republican donor class.

    • #8
  9. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    The answer to ‘why Jeb?’ is the same as the answer to why Romney and why McCain.  Because they are out of touch and truly have no understanding of nor interest in how Jeb could possibly not be viable. That includes the donors as well as the party leadership.  (one in the same, essentially)

    Wasn’t it obvious that they were supremely, arrogantly confident that they could guarantee their candidate with enough money?  Even now, with Trump razzing them in their faces, they can’t really get their head around how anyone could beat their 150 Million.

    It never occurred to them that being an open border amnesty supporter would matter, even though they knew it wouldn’t play well with the base. No more than they could comprehend that a third Bush president was objectionable on its face to many. (we don’t have dynasties in America!) Because it never occurred to them that those people had any choice but get on board once they shoved their candidate down their throats.  They always had in the past!

    Whatever Trumps negatives, and I agree they are daunting, he has at least temporarily shown that the base still has weapons at their disposal.    The question is whether the donor class are still too arrogant to show the will of the base any respect. I’m not seeing it so far.

    • #9
  10. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    Or maybe it’s because, as sage William Goldman said (channeling his inner Hayek): Nobody knows anything. What sounded like a good idea in May leads to a tail-tucked-between-the-legs exit in February. Jeb tanking, Trump rising . . . I mean, who knew?

    • #10
  11. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Franz Drumlin: Jeb tanking, Trump rising . . . I mean, who knew?

    Roger Stone?

    • #11
  12. Mike Hubbard Inactive
    Mike Hubbard
    @MikeHubbard

    Massive amounts of cash worked for Mitt Romney in 2012, but the donors forgot that Romney had no serious opposition.

    Perhaps the better lesson of 2016 is that Super PAC funds cannot replace a candidate who connects with voters. Exhibit A would (of course) be the Donald, who spent far less than ¡Jeb! or Rubio or Cruz.  Exhibit B would be Bernie, who pointedly never formed a Super PAC.

    • #12
  13. Dan Hanson Thatcher
    Dan Hanson
    @DanHanson

    I don’t run in the rarified circles of people who can give tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns,  but I’m guessing that part of the motivation is signalling – virtue signalling,  tribal signalling…  It helps with networking to be known as a big contributor,  and the Bushes are very connected.  Less so after this election, I would think, but still.  And giving money to the ‘establishment’ candidate helps you with influence over the establishment.

    Why do people give huge sums of money to Hillary Clinton?   Because if Clinton wins,  big donors will be remembered.  And if she doesn’t,  the fact that you gave her a bunch of money gives you a certain amount of status among the movers and shakers in the party, who also tend to be people with a lot of money and power.

    • #13
  14. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Back in 2014 I started a conversation that suggested how (IMO) Bush could have campaigned effectively not withstanding his name.  Not surprisingly there was pushback from the Ricochetti, to which I responded:

    Rodin:Thank you, Nanda. I am not a proponent of Jeb Bush, but I am a proponent of an animating vision for our politics. Like it or not that is where Obama succeeded in 2008. The fact that Obama’s was a false vision does not render it less effective.

    I want the Republican standard bearer in 2016 to have a vision to which I can subscribe and which resonates with at least 51% of the actual voters. I don’t want Jeb Bush to be out of picture simply because he was preceded by two Bushes unless his vision IS NOT one to which I would subscribe.

    Unlike some of the other commenters I am not blessed with a detailed understanding yet of the relative merits of all the 2016 candidates, so I cannot automatically rule Jeb Bush out. But I do know that if it is to be Jeb Bush he’ll need to convince many (most?) to focus on HIS vision and not the name.

    Bush was clearly a flawed messenger even if this was his vision. This vision would have justified his initial fundraising, but when it became obvious he was a flawed messenger, continued support was inexplicable.

    • #14
  15. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Franz Drumlin:Or maybe it’s because, as sage William Goldman said (channeling his inner Hayek): Nobody knows anything. What sounded like a good idea in May leads to a tail-tucked-between-the-legs exit in February. Jeb tanking, Trump rising . . . I mean, who knew?

    Right. I’m not sure how many of the donors wanted to see their dollars incinerated after it became clear that they were simply supporting Trump and Cruz; by that time the race was in the hands of Mike Murphy, and he chose his own path.

    That said, quite a lot of them hate Rubio with a fiery passion. In Florida, in particular, there were Cruz volunteers who despised Cruz, but loathed Marco more. I gather there were some who really did want Murphy to spend the money as he did.

    There were plenty who were irritated by it, though, including senior people who worked for the Jeb campaign (although not enough of them). For myself, I’ll certainly watch who hires him in the future and treat that as part of my decision making process in whether or not to go out and volunteer and donate against them.

    • #15
  16. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Can anybody offer a credible explanation as to why this happened? These donors are many things, but they’re generally not stupid.

    I assumed they were repaying some past loyalty shown by Governor Jeb, his governor and president brother, or his congressman and president father. Hard to say no when you get that call from the guy who gave you a leg up.

    • #16
  17. BrentB67 Inactive
    BrentB67
    @BrentB67

    James Of England:

    Franz Drumlin:Or maybe it’s because, as sage William Goldman said (channeling his inner Hayek): Nobody knows anything. What sounded like a good idea in May leads to a tail-tucked-between-the-legs exit in February. Jeb tanking, Trump rising . . . I mean, who knew?

    Right. I’m not sure how many of the donors wanted to see their dollars incinerated after it became clear that they were simply supporting Trump and Cruz; by that time the race was in the hands of Mike Murphy, and he chose his own path.

    That said, quite a lot of them hate Rubio with a fiery passion. In Florida, in particular, there were Cruz volunteers who despised Cruz, but loathed Marco more. I gather there were some who really did want Murphy to spend the money as he did.

    James, why do you think that is? Rubio wasn’t my first choice and I disagreed with his immigration performance, but I have a hard time understanding how somebody could loathe him, but it is clear that was the case in Florida.

    There were plenty who were irritated by it, though, including senior people who worked for the Jeb campaign (although not enough of them). For myself, I’ll certainly watch who hires him in the future and treat that as part of my decision making process in whether or not to go out and volunteer and donate against them.

    • #17
  18. Dave_L Inactive
    Dave_L
    @Dave-L

    PHenry:The answer to ‘why Jeb?’ is the same as the answer to why Romney and why McCain. Because they are out of touch and truly have no understanding of nor interest in how Jeb could possibly not be viable. That includes the donors as well as the party leadership. (one in the same, essentially)

    I stopped identifying as a Republican a little over a year ago when Jeb was being presented as the end-all be-all with his $100M war chest.  It was evident to me that the GOP was not in tune with the electorate and was following the same game plan as always.

    Edited to add:  …and my decision was validated in my opinion when Bush put Mike Murphy in charge of his PAC.

    • #18
  19. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    What would you do for a friend? Or someone you owed a significant, near Corleone level, favor?

    Plus you are a rich guy who can easily spend $100,000 on a work of art to adorn your chalet in Aspen. Or $50,000 on your son’s year abroad.

    The rich are different and from their place this is money you find in the space between the cushions of your couch.

    • #19
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    I think he looked good on paper–cutting taxes, bringing jobs. He was seen as principled an honest. His persona seemed different when he was governor. Otherwise, I dunno.

    • #20
  21. SecondBite Member
    SecondBite
    @SecondBite

    Belief in the twin gods of competence and money.  Bush was arguably the most experienced and capable of the candidates and had good name recognition.  By a simple- or rather, simplistic- algorithm, with enough money he should have been a shoo-in.  Unfortunately, for Bush, the last couple election cycles have seriously demonstrated the diminishing marginal returns of campaign cash, and his name, while recognizable, was a negative.  But people with what it takes to be able to make that kind of donation are naturally going to overweight the characteristics they share, so the club gets together and makes a choice.  I would be very surprised if the money hadn’t gone looking for Bush rather than the other way around.

    • #21
  22. James Of England Moderator
    James Of England
    @JamesOfEngland

    Mike Hubbard:Massive amounts of cash worked for Mitt Romney in 2012, but the donors forgot that Romney had no serious opposition.

    Perhaps the better lesson of 2016 is that Super PAC funds cannot replace a candidate who connects with voters. Exhibit A would (of course) be the Donald, who spent far less than ¡Jeb! or Rubio or Cruz. Exhibit B would be Bernie, who pointedly never formed a Super PAC.

    Trump had Jeb’s superpac as a critical part of his success. If he’d come third in Iowa and failed to run the table in South Carolina, he’d have had a less convincing bandwagon argument. He wouldn’t have had to have done that much less well to have failed to take the first ballot. This election’s primaries were decided by the super PACs on both sides (there were other decisive things, but without the funding imbalance, Clinton and Trump would both have been more likely to fail than to succeed).

    • #22
  23. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    Austin Murrey: Roger Stone?

    Well, yeah, maybe. But maybe he didn’t ‘know,’ just as I suspect that Donald Trump didn’t ‘know’ he was going to make it this far. If Roger Stone had some inside dope it probably wasn’t any different than the mixture of information, guesses and hopes that all campaigns start with. He sure put his money on the right horse, though. Gotta give him that.

    • #23
  24. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Like television and Hollywood, all shows and movies are now remakes of other successful content. Corporate culture is in it’s terminal phase where the people in charge are paid extremely well to primarily take no risks to keep being paid extremely well.

    So the Dems go for a Clinton and the GOP goes for a Bush. All it lacks is the CGI, although, in Hillarys! case, that may be there also.

    Jeb! was the perfect candidate to take down Fritz Mondale. A rerun.

    • #24
  25. Vald the Misspeller Inactive
    Vald the Misspeller
    @ValdtheMisspeller

    MarciN: IHe would have Bern a qtrat president

    nuqjatlh?

    MarciN: New smartphone

    Does it know any languages beside Klingon? You know, like English.

    • #25
  26. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler
    @SonofSpengler

    Vald the Misspeller:

    MarciN: IHe would have Bern a qtrat president

    nuqjatlh?

    MarciN: New smartphone

    Does it know any languages beside Klingon? You know, like English.

    Jealous that she might steal your epithet?

    • #26
  27. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    You need to look at his achievements and vision for the future of ameriva, not the politics.

    • #27
  28. Al Sparks Thatcher
    Al Sparks
    @AlSparks

    Dan Hanson:I don’t run in the rarified circles of people who can give tens of thousands of dollars to political campaigns, but I’m guessing that part of the motivation is signalling – virtue signalling, tribal signalling… It helps with networking to be known as a big contributor, and the Bushes are very connected.

    This explanation is the best one.  I’ve noticed that after a president leaves office, the network of staffers goes on.  Dick Cheney was Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, and continued to be loyal to him even as his Republican bona fides was called into question after the Reagan revolution.

    The Bush family will continue in politics, as evidenced by Jeb’s son, George P Bush who is thought well of.  So a contributor will also look to the future regarding the Bush brand.  And they are clannish, and note both their friends and their enemies, though they do it with more class than the Clintons do.

    When you compare both brands, Bush’s will last longer because they continue to have offspring that are competent and can stand on their own.  On the other hand, Chelsea is being propped up, and I don’t see her husband as having much talent either.

    So the Bush’s will continue to be supported, while the Clintons will not if Hilary loses this election.

    • #28
  29. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    When I get home I will write a longer comment.

    • #29
  30. Greg Dick Inactive
    Greg Dick
    @GregDick

    One possible answer to this question — although take it with a grain of salt — comes from Mike Murphy, the Republican consultant and man who headed up Bush’s PAC this cycle.

    Appearing on David Axelrod’s podcast, The Axe Files, a few weeks ago, Murphy claims Bush was able to raise $100 million because the donors in the room responded better to his vision and ideas for the country than those of the other candidates.

    It’s easy to second guess now, but at the time — if what Murphy says is true — you can’t blame the donors for trying to win an election by following the then conventional wisdom and putting a boatload of money behind their guy.

    What’s more troubling is that Murphy also says pre-Trump entering the race the Bush campaign still only thought their odds at winning the nomination were at or less than 50/50. Based on that, it seems to me there are some bigger questions than “what were the donors thinking.”

    • #30
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