Is Jeb Bush finished?

No, but he could be within a month or two. The Washington Post reports:

Jeb Bush is entering a critical phase of his Republican presidential campaign, with top donors warning that the former Florida governor needs to demonstrate growth in the polls over the next month or face serious defections among supporters. . . .

The warnings from top donors come as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s exit from the race re­focused the battle within the GOP’s establishment wing as one between Bush and his former protege, Sen. Marco Rubio. Right now, the momentum appears to be behind Rubio, who has jumped ahead of Bush in most polls.

At least a third of the bundlers who signed up to raise money for Walker have switched their allegiance to Rubio, while a smaller number have gone with Bush, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Is this report (by Ed O’Keefe and Matea Gold) accurate? I assume so. It is certainly plausible given growing concern within “the establishment” about Donald Trump.

Bush could, of course, persevere notwithstanding donor abandonment. But the double blow of flat, low poll numbers and donor defections would render him a dead man walking. In that case, it seems likely that Bush would chose, as Scott Walker did, to bow out and join the “stop Trump” chorus.

Heeding the donor warnings, Bush is set to launch an aggressive television ad campaign designed to erase doubts about his “viability,” according to the Post. It’s far from clear, however, that ads can erase the fairly poor impression Bush has made thus far in the campaign.

Bush has debated fairly well. However, on the trail he has been a human gaffe machine, forced to defend or explain a series of misstatement about issues ranging from his view of his brother’s decision to fight in Iraq, to anchor babies, to funding for women’s health. Most recently, Bush told a South Carolina audience that Democrats often win over black voters by telling them “we’ll take care of you with free stuff.”

After the Mitt Romney experience, few Republicans want to be saddled with another presidential candidate who speaks of racial politics in these terms.

Beyond the gaffes, the dynamic of the campaign does not favor Bush. As Haley Barbour complained to the Post, “[people] don’t know him yet, and you’ve got a right wing of the party that is almost determined not to get to know him.”

This leaves the center-right, which was sufficient to nominate Romney. But unlike Romney, Bush faces real competition for those votes. A little to the right of him is Marco Rubio, who has been a strong candidate so far. A little to the left is John Kasich, who has campaigned decently. Chris Christie, who does well in debates, is also in that mix.

Each of these competitors has been largely gaffe free. Each is unburdened by the Bush name.

It won’t be easy, then, for Bush to significantly raise his poll numbers, as his backers reportedly are demanding.

Marco Rubio would be the obvious beneficiary of a Bush exit. If Rubio hadn’t joined Team Amnesty in 2013, I’d be betting on his nomination, and supporting it.

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