Jeb Bush’s joyless campaign

Before entering the presidential race, Jeb Bush said he wanted to run “joyfully.” And when Bush appears on talk shows, he seems sunny (especially for a candidate who is running, what, in fifth place with about 5 percent support in the polls) and eager to talk policy.

But meanwhile, as Steve has pointed out, Bush’s Super PAC is smearing the candidate’s one-time protege, Marco Rubio. The latest example is a recycling of the story of Rubio’s use of a Republican Party credit card.

The ad opens with shots of a family with kids, while a narrator ticks off a list of things Rubio paid for with the party credit card: “Car repairs, home improvements, a family trip; it’s not easy to afford them,” the narrator says. “What did Marco Rubio do? He put $22,000 in personal expenses on a Republican Party credit card.”

My first question is: when did Jeb Bush, born to wealth, find it difficult to afford car repairs, home improvement, and a family trip?

My second question is: where’s the scandal? The Washington Post, hardly a Rubio-friendly organ, didn’t find one here. Initially skeptical of Rubio’s explanation of the matter, the Post, after digging, found that his story — short version: the Republican Party “never paid a single personal expense of mine — basically “matches up” with the facts.

My third question is: why was Bush so supportive of Rubio’s political career if, as the anti-Rubio ad states, Rubio showed “bad judgment” that “caused a scandal. Alex Conant of the Rubio campaign points out that Bush endorsed Marco in 2010 and recommended him to be vice president in 2012 knowing about the so-called credit card scandal. Clearly, he understood that, as the Post says, this “isn’t really a scandal.”

There’s no mystery as to why Bush’s PAC is peddling the matter now. Bush needs to finish at least second or third (if Ted Cruz comes in second) in New Hampshire to remain viable in the so-called establishment lane. Rubio stands in his way.

Unfortunately for Bush, so do Chris Christie and John Kasich. If Rubio loses support, these candidates, along with Cruz, seem more likely than Bush to pick it up. Rubio is a likable guy, so being the guy out front trying to bring him down probably won’t endear the perpetrator to New Hampshire voters.

Nor will a poor showing in New Hampshire likely knock Rubio out of the race. If he finishes third in Iowa, which seems likely, his ticket, I think, will be punched for at least several more rounds.

Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign faces the possibility of being one of the great flops in recent memory. But there is no dishonor in flopping electorally, especially in a year as crazy as 2016 is shaping up to be.

Can the same thing be said about pretending to run joyfully while your super-PAC presents a bogus ad against your former protege?

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