|Zed Ain't The Only One|
How bad off is he really? Well, the NRO makes the case that when you compare small-donors to mega-donors, the only people who really like Jeb are mega-donors:
2016 Clinton 3:1, Sanders 1:33 Carson 1:11.5, Cruz 1:1.6, Bush 15:1, Rubio 1.7:1, Fiorina 1:2.5, Trump 1:6.5Compare to Carson who has 1 dollar from mega-donors for every 11.5 he gets from small donors. Historically it's okay to be lopsided--but 15:1 is extreme. Now, that's only part of the story: in terms of magnitude Jeb out-raised everyone so part of that is just a function of his extreme haul.
But it still isn't great.
Problem 1: New HampshireIowa is the state for crazy evangelicals. New Hampshire is the state for sober statesmen. People are saying that Jeb "needs to win New Hampshire" but The Omnivore holds that is not technically true. The Omnivore holds that Jeb needs to win Florida which, being the first big prize in the Winner Take All states is numerically crucial to securing the nomination. It's also a premier battle-ground state, Jeb's Governor Success Story, and a state that holds promise to "appeal to Latinos"--a key part of Jeb's value prop.
However, as important as Florida is, it might not matter if Trump and Carson split the early states. If Bush doesn't come in at least second, it just might not matter. Right now? He's fourth--behind Carly Fiorina.
Problem 2: His Ad-Blitz / FavorablesJeb's superPAC struck back in New Hampshire running a month-long ad blitz with nothing to show for it. His favorability scores?
|Not The Right Direction|
Problem 3: Trump-Trump-Trump (and Carson)The Romney glide-path was that after all the flings, tantrums, and binges, in the midst of the morning-after hangover, Mitt was still the only realistic candidate. The clear problem here is that Jeb's lane is "blocked" (or at least 'crowded') by Marco Rubio and John Kasich (who trials him by less than a point in New Hampshire).
But even if he can overcome those two, he's still many, many points behind Trump and Carson--yes, even in New Hampshire (and everywhere else). The conventional wisdom has, thus far, ran that Trump and Carson would burn out--but they've been in the lead for more days than there are before voting begins.
Trump is now seen as viable by much of the party. Carson, who suspended his campaign for two weeks to do a book tour, isn't lacking support either (and is a runaway favorite of small donors). In other words, it appears that the inertia is towards Trump and Carson still leading going into Iowa. It is thought that a massive combined attack by Chamber of Commerce types might be organized against Trump and hurt him--but the fact is that this would simply confirm the worst fears of the base about the establishment trying to screw them.
There's no indication Jeb would be the beneficiary of that. Muddying this is the fact that right now Trump polls as beating Hillary. In the context of a general election more than a year away and with no actual combat between the two, these polls aren't all that meaningful--but their presence serves to deflect arguments that Trump would get crushed in the general. In other words, it's going to be hard to dislodge him.
Worse, the three outsiders (Trump, Carson, Fiorina) have very different supporter profiles (Trump: Blue collar, Carson: Evangelical, Fiorina: wealthy mainstream Republicans). The idea that these groups will all agree on when to shift their support--if ever--at the same time is a pipe dream. The idea that these guys will fade and the voters will "come home to Jeb" is the sort of thing that happens after the convention--not during the primary.
ConclusionsJeb staying in the race has positive effects for Carson and Trump: it's easier to make pay-day being anti-establishment when Mr. Establishment is in the race (Rubio, although likely 'establishment enough' is nowhere near the In-The-Dictionary level that Bush is). Secondly, he holds down Rubio and maybe Cruz a little. If you add Rubio + Jeb in New Hampshire you tie Ben Carson. That ain't nothing.
The Omnivore suspects that Jeb will be out sooner rather than later: there doesn't seem to be a significant solution to his multiple problems and as small donor support fades, as with Walker, he will find that a hundred million in SuperPAC money doesn't go all that far.