Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Should Jeb Drop Out For The Good of the Party?

"Why are people ASKING me this??"
As Walker exited the race, he gave advice to the remaining candidates:
"I encourage other Republican presidential candidates to consider doing the same so the voters can focus on a limited number of candidates who can offer a positive, conservative alternative to the current frontrunner," Walker added.
Who was he telling to drop out? The answer is: Jeb, probably. Sure, he probably means the guys from the kid's-table debate--why not? And he likely means Chris Christie with a side of Huckabee too. The problem is that those guys, together, add up to about 7%. If you add that to Jeb's 8% it might not even get him into 2nd place (Carson polls just above 15%).

Of course Walker taking his 'asterisk' out of the race wasn't going to spread a bunch of voters around either. But the point remains: for the GOP establishment, the choices are now pretty much Rubio and Jeb. Sure, Kasich has his 2%. Chris Christie or Bobby Jindal would be reasonably acceptable candidates--if they were polling anywhere but 'life support'--but if you work down from Trump above Mike Huckabee are only Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush*.

Rubio, pulling 5.5%, is almost equal to all those guys combined. If Bush left Marco would also get almost all of his support . . . probably. If Rubio left? Maybe not.

Should Bush Drop?

Slate's token conservative asks the question "Could Walker have recovered?"
The short answer is probably not. If Walker believed that he was a man of destiny and that the future of the republic depended on his willingness to tough it out, perhaps he could have muddled through for a few more months, lying in wait as other candidates stumbled. To muddle through, however, he’d have to either radically trim the size of his quite big and expensive campaign staff or he’d have to raise more hard money. As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal notes, Walker managed to raise a handsome sum for his super PAC, but his super PAC could not pay for his staff or for his travel. Paying those bills meant attracting donors to Walker’s formal campaign apparatus, and it’s hard to attract donors when you’re in the low single digits in the polls and you’ve faded to the point of invisibility on the debate stage. Walker was faring so badly that had he limped to another debate, he might have been relegated to the kids table—which might not even be around next time. I’d say that Walker has spared himself and his family a lot of sleepless nights.
When we look at Bush, on the other hand, in August he had 8MM in the bank. At that time Walker wasn't registering anything on the charts (his super PACs had 26MM though). So while Bush's PAC's (over 100MM) are loaded, Bush, himself (in so-called "hard money") isn't about to tank either and in July, at least, Bush's burn-rate was pretty low.

Secondly, while Bush has also been under-whelming according to expectations, he hasn't been nearly as underwhelming as Walker. Walker was supposed to be the guy who could unite the party. Jeb is "running the general election in the primary" (basically NOT appealing to the base). Low scores are to be expected at this stage.

Thirdly, Walker had a must-win-Iowa strategy where he would take the first voting state by storm and use that victory to rocket-boost him ahead of his competition. Jeb's must-win State is Florida where he is running in 2nd place (although, yes, far behind Trump--and barely ahead of Carson). Comparatively, Rubio is a solid 5pts behind Bush.

This is good positioning for Jeb: the current thinking right now is that no one has to "kill" Trump--he'll just somehow fade as people get tired of his act. Then Carson will Herman Cain right into the ground and Jeb will break away as the remaining vote splits between Huckabee, Fiorina, and Ted Cruz--or something. Whatever. Right now Jeb's Florida position is enviable to everyone not named "Donald."

Finally? Bush is winning right now. Huh? Well, polling isn't the only--or even the best--measure of power in the campaign. Betting markets are another "poll"--this one with actual money behind it. Endorsements are, historically, the best predictors of who will win the nomination. Money raised, as noted, is a key element too. Bush is winning all of these.


Stories about how badly Jeb is doing are likely to continue to float around--but The Omnivore doesn't see any reason for him to clear the field for Marco Rubio. If Jeb suffered a polling collapse like Walker did? That's one thing--but we need to wait for the next fund-raising announcements to come out to know if Bush's money sources are drying up.

* John Ellis Bush. Jeb Bush is like "ATM Machine"

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