Jeb Bush Is Peyton Manning, George W. Is Eli Manning

Jeb Bush Is Peyton Manning, George W. Is Eli Manning

Once upon a time there were two brothers. They had similar designs and ambitions for their careers. Their father had been successful in the field, and, though limited in his performance, occupied a beloved position above the fray. It was obvious who was likelier to be successful – one brother was smarter, taller, more naturally gifted, while the other possessed more humble qualities – people thought he was dumb, a screwup, but he had a rogue’s instinct for pulling something out of nothing. When their careers began, there was no question who you would bet on to find success. But two decades later, it’s obvious that it was the brother everyone assumed would be weaker who actually connected, and that the brother everyone assumed would be stronger – with an impressive career, a solid resume, records on records of success – ended up getting maybe his best shot at matching his brother in the title stakes at a point where his arm finally gave out.

Jeb Bush is Peyton, George W. Bush is Eli, George H.W. Bush is Archie. It’s the easiest way to understand the family dynamic, and also the frustration inherent in Jeb’s recent troubles. It’s amazing to those of us who’ve watched Peyton Manning’s dropoff this year to compare him to the quarterback of the past – a master of the game who orchestrated offenses from the field with a total understanding of the threats around him. Peyton never had the strongest arm, but his anticipation, his brain was what impressed. On the other hand, Eli’s “aw shucks” attitude gave off the impression that he is a little slow, maybe even dumb – but he was lucky, and his potential to pull off an amazing play after a series of terrible ones gave him a good shot to impress. And that’s how he ended up with two rings.

People said George W. Bush was a dumb guy – he wasn’t, but a lot of people suspected he was. Nobody says that Jeb Bush is a dumb guy, because he isn’t, and nobody thinks he is. Now that the field is left with just two remotely conservative governors (hey, John Kasich staffer, you can remove me from that email list), there’s no question that Jeb has the most impressive resume. He is a reformer in a large state with a significant record in multiple areas of policy. He has been putting out serious policy proposals since he got into the race, telling the people what he would do and how he would do it. People liked Jeb more even if they weren’t fans of his team – watching him play was impressive, in a way watching W. was not.

But it’s possible Jeb is limited by the fact that he’s coming to this too late. It might have been a different circumstance if he had crowded out Mitt Romney and run in 2012, but perhaps the real delineation is driven by the fact that he left electoral politics prior to the rise of the Tea Party and the great sort of the conservative base. You can see his frustrations in this: he has the most conservative record and the most executive experience of anyone in the Republican presidential field. He has passed for the most yards and touchdowns and won the most games. But that hardly matters now, when the arm strength is gone, when you’re beset by injuries, and when that field looks so much longer than 100 yards.

For all his tragic travails of recent weeks, Peyton Manning is still 7-2, and has the best defense in the league – and Jeb Bush is equipped with the most Super PAC dollars and has the ability to stick it out. People who say Jeb is done are wrong: for all his limitations, he still has the intelligence and wherewithal to stick it out and muster solid performances down the stretch. He would likely admit to being past his political prime, but he also has the advantages of someone raised in the game of politics, who knows that even when you are down, you are never out. His warchest is massive, thanks in part to people like… Peyton Manning. That’s why this Rubio-driven push to bench Jeb early is not going to succeed, because Jeb still has some fight in him, because he is icing that arm, and because when it comes down to it, this is the game he was born to play. Is he going to win it all? Probably not this year. But he’s earned the right to fight through these defects and try again – and even if he ultimately fails, he’s going to be a factor down the stretch.

🎶Right to Rise you PAC so good🎶.

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.
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