The Jeb Bush Problem

Posted: Jun 11, 2015 9:44 PM

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had a bad week last week, according to the Washington Press corps. They saw Bush installing Republican operative Danny Diaz as his campaign manager as a sign that Bush is struggling. Actually, Diaz is a great pick and a sign that Bush is about to formally announce his presidential bid. But the reality is that Jeb Bush has made a number of miscalculations as he heads to a formal announcement this week.

First, he presumed his entry would keep others out. It may have kept out Romney v.5.0, but that was all. Bush team members were rather public that they hoped his early announcement would keep Rubio out. It did not.

When Rubio got in, they presumed they could lock down Florida donors. They did not. They then presumed they could snag the national mega-donors. They could not.

In fact, three of the mega-donors, in separate conversations with me, tell me that Jeb hit them in the same sweet spot Romney did and, given Romney's campaign, they are less likely to support Jeb because they feel as comfortable with him as they did Romney. Romney's shadow hurts Jeb.

Another problem Jeb has is that he snapped up way more consultants than he needed in order to keep them from helping other candidates. The only thing these consultants are good for is bleeding a candidate dry, which is what they are doing to Bush.

Bush may have kept people off the field, but he has a massively high burn rate between his campaign and super PAC. That is forcing him to fundraise more than campaign. He has a higher burn rate than a lot of the other candidates, and that is going to bite him in the rear.

Let's also be honest on one point. Bush's position on immigration is not the deal breaker many of the most vocal elements of the right seem to think it is. See e.g. Republican nominees George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney -- all mostly to the left of where Jeb is on the issue.

But there are some real problems for Jeb. First, there are too many cooks in the kitchen, who profit even if he loses. Second, his last name is an anchor. Third, his post-gubernatorial rhetoric seemingly deviates from his gubernatorial record, which is objectively solid and probably more conservative than George W. Bush's record in Texas. Fourth, he has so many staffers and consultants to pay. Fifth, his Common Core position is going to hurt him more than his immigration position because the majority of Republican primary voters will be moms who are pissed off. Sixth, as the Washington Post mentions, he is having a hard time separating himself from the policies of his brother.

Jeb Bush is going to have to run as Jeb Bush, not as George Bush's heir. That, in and of itself, presents a problem. Historically, New Hampshire is a disaster for anyone named Bush. If he can't win Iowa and he can't win New Hampshire, there is no way he is going to win South Carolina. Ask Rudy Giuliani how a Florida firewall works. And Giuliani didn't have to fight for Florida against Marco Rubio.

The Jeb Bush candidacy stands and falls on its own. It has some serious structural problems right now. But those problems are fixable. Danny Diaz is not the problem. Unfortunately for Jeb Bush, his talking points over the last few years and not his record as Florida's governor will get the focus. That, plus too many cooks in the kitchen, may sink his candidacy even as he heads to the stage this week to announce he really is running.