News & Politics

Dead Campaign Walking

It ain’t over til it’s over, but the fat lady is starting to warm up in the wings:

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is canceling reserved advertising time in Iowa and scaling back his advertising in South Carolina, campaign aides said Wednesday, a sign of his continuing struggles to connect with voters.

Instead, Bush plans to deploy more staff to the first four states holding contests next year — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. Staffing in New Hampshire will double to 40, and the Bush team in Iowa will grow to about 20, aides said. Staffing in South Carolina and Nevada will be in the low teens. News of the decision was first reported by the Des Moines Register.

Unrepresentative Iowa is largely a matter of on-the-ground organization, but Bush has almost no chance in New Hampshire and his Casper Milquetoast personality is unlikely to win him many fans in red-meat South Carolina.

The movements come at the end of the fundraising quarter, a period when Bush was devoting less time to holding fundraisers and more time visiting the early states in hopes of boosting his sagging poll numbers. A series of emails to supporters this week from Bush’s brother, former president George W. Bush, and the candidate’s son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush, delivered last-minute requests for donations as low as $1. Bush has struggled to raise money from smaller donors despite raising millions from well-heeled supporters easily able to give the $2,700 maximum.

As he scaled back on television, Bush will rely on Right to Rise USA, the super PAC he launched before starting his campaign. The entity raised more than $100 million this year and plans to spend tens of millions of dollars in the early states in the coming weeks, a spokesman said Wednesday.

One senses the not-so-invisible hand of Karl Rove in all this. But all the Super PAC money in the world won’t be able to overcome the perception that Bush is weak and uncharismatic, and burdened with a family name that needs to make a graceful and dignified exit from American political life as quickly as possible.

The moves, announced during the holiday week, will be greeted by the rest of the GOP field as yet another desperate attempt to revive Bush’s campaign, which began the year in a commanding financial and polling position but has gradually sputtered ever since. In October, Bush slashed his campaign payroll, laid off some staffers and redeployed dozens across the country to work on voter outreach and ballot access. Bush and his team conceded at the time that changes were being made because of the rise of front-runner Donald Trump and in hopes of avoiding the sudden financial collapse like the one that ended Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.

Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time. Adios, Jeb!