From the get-go, we have thought that Jeb Bush is a weak candidate for the Republican nomination. We don’t know any conservatives or Republicans who support his candidacy. Not one. In a strong field he struggles to make an impression.
Even with my limited expectations, I question his adroitness. He made his inclination to sell out the Republican base clear even before he’d won a vote. Conventional wisdom has it that you’re not supposed to make that move until you secure the nomination. Jeb must have thought he had the thing in the bag. His appeal has remained limited to the Republican donor class and that has to be subject to expiration some time in the not too distant future.
In her most recent Wall Street Journal column Peggy Noonan puts it this way:
Six and nine months ago at various events people would cross the room and ask me, with some urgency, “Can Jeb win the nomination?” They were so hopeful. And they were all Democrats. They wanted an alternative to Hillary. I realized Jeb is a Democrat’s idea of what a Republican contender should be. Among Republicans of course he has some supporters, but the only really rabid pro-Jebbers I’ve met the past few months are former Bush 41 and 43 ambassadors who want back in the game. Of more immediate possible import, talks with Jeb donors suggest theirs was not passion money but canny financial bets placed when he was inevitable.
I wonder why Noonan waited so long to let us know about these acquaintances seeking her out six or nine months ago. She is a lagging indicator. Dan Riehl made the same point three months ago, from reading New York magazine.
It would have been interesting to know at the time. It bites. I thought it was worth quoting. At this point, however, it also has the feel of piling on.
PAUL ADDS: I agree with Scott. Jeb Bush is the favorite candidate of few conservatives (and he is not my favorite). In addition, Peggy Noonan is the queen of not telling us what she really thinks until she considers it politic to do so.
However, Dan Riehl’s statement, in a post to which Scott links, that Bush is the preferred candidate of Democrats because “they know [Bush] would be little different than a Democrat were he to win the White House” is silly. A Jeb Bush presidency would be easily distinguishable from Obama’s and from the presidency of any of the current Democratic contenders.
Democrats who prefer Bush over other Republicans aren’t counting on Bush to govern like a Democrat. I would rather Joe Manchin be president than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. But that doesn’t mean I’m counting on Manchin to “be little different than” a Republican as president. It just means I view him as less left-wing than Clinton and Sanders.
Similarly, Democrats who prefer Bush do so because they view him as less right-wing than other Republican contenders, not because they consider him a fellow liberal.
(NOTE: I have expanded this comment from its original version.)