Jeb Bush may have made a mistake akin to poking an angry bear in the eye with a stick when he chose to throw his former protégé Marco Rubio under the bus earlier this week. (Especially considering that just four years ago Bush thought Rubio was Romney’s best option as a VP candidate.) It seems that the Rubio campaign did not much care for Jeb’s attack on their candidate, and now they’ve begun to fight back.
It started during a campaign event in Iowa on Thursday night when a Bush employed campaign-tracker was tossed from a Rubio event. A local who was at the Rubio event said that he found the Bush campaign’s tactics distasteful and surprising. Speaking of Jeb Bush, the man said, “The words don’t match the actions from here. I’ve listened to him talk and he’s said a lot of good things. But I didn’t like this.” He continued on to voice his surprise that a Republican would send a spy after another Republican, “I was just surprised that they would do that, that they would send someone to a Republican event like that. I thought it would be a Democrat.”
Interestingly enough, this is all happening as Rubio continues his steady rise in the polls. The latest YouGov poll has him in 2nd place, below a still leading (though with shrinking numbers) Donald Trump. (Rubio is also tied for the lead in “favorability” with Dr. Ben Carson – which bodes well for him.)
You can be sure that both the Rubio and Bush campaign are preparing for what will likely be one of the most intense fights of this primary – the battle between the two friends from Florida.
However, Bush may have done more to damage himself on Wednesday than Rubio could have inflicted on his own.
Speaking to ABC News, Bush said that he was the John McCain of the 2015-2016 GOP Primary.
“This time, eight years ago, John McCain was traveling through the Atlanta airport. I saw him and he had no aide, no person, [he was] by himself because his campaign was supposed to be ended. He won the Republican primary that year. This is how the process works; you have to go earn it.”
While Bush was only trying to say that, like McCain (who was way behind in the polls at this point in the 2008 campaign), he too would soon be pulling into the lead in this primary fight, what most conservatives probably heard Bush say was, “I’m just like John McCain!” This is NOT the message that Jeb Bush should be trying to convey, even if he’s just making an analogy about the state of the race. McCain has poisoned the well with conservatives over the last few years, and many of us already see Bush as “the McCain” of this campaign. If anything, he should be trying to distance himself from the McCain wing of the Party.
Of course, this isn’t a ‘back-breaking’ problem for Bush, but it should throw up some red flags for GOP voters. McCain got trounced in 2008 for various reasons, the most important of which was his inability to energize the base. Bush suffers from the very same problem. The longer this campaign carries on, the truer Donald Trump’s attacks on Bush ring. For all of Bush’s good qualities, he’s just “low energy” at a time that we are in major need of an energy boost.
Bush may not be McCain… but he might as well be, and that is not a good thing.