It is hard sometimes not to feel sorry for Jeb Bush, a presidential candidate beset by an extraordinary inability to rise in the polls. For all the millions of dollars he spent, he snagged about 3 percent of the Iowa caucus vote: he forked over about $2,800 for each ballot cast in his favor.
A few days later, the Internet was chortling gleefully, if a little unfairly, at an uncomfortable moment in New Hampshire in which Bush gave a rousing speech, met total silence from the crowd, and subsequently implored his audience: “Please clap.”
Bush is almost certainly finished. He could experience a miraculous resurgence and secure the nomination—stranger things have happened—but it is exceedingly unlikely.
Jeb Bush Can Be Proud of His Accomplishments
There are good reasons for this, but, if we must be honest, there is a case to be made for Jeb Bush, as well, even if only 3 percent of Iowa voters agreed. Bush was a solid and reliable conservative while in the governor’s chair in Florida, and his status as the “moderate” Republican in the 2016 field, though deserved in some sense, is due at least in part to factors like Ted Cruz’s ideological purity and Donald Trump’s firebreathing insanity.
Jeb is no Ted Cruz, but nor is he John Kasich, and it is entirely probable that, as president, he would do a good bit more for conservatism than his brother did in the same position over eight years.
In another time and place, Jeb Bush might have been the hero America deserved. As of now, he is not the hero we need, at least not in the White House. There is nothing wrong with this. Different men are made for different moments, and one could make the case that even Ronald Reagan would be a president unsuited for our current times.
We’ll Always Have Florida
Jeb Bush’s time might have been 16 or 20 years ago; it might be eight years hence, at which point he’d still be five years younger than Bernie Sanders will be in November. He is not the conservative we need in the White House today—but that does not mean he is not a conservative, or that his merits and accomplishments do not speak for themselves.
Politics is often a sad business. People are often humiliated, publicly and globally, and the cutthroat milieu of our current political moment is utterly unforgiving. The uncomfortable deflation of Bush’s campaign—he is, so far as I know, the only candidate who has had to ask for applause this election cycle—testifies to this. Sometimes these things happen.
Bush should be preparing to fold up his campaign. It is over, and it really has been for some time. But he deserves credit, at the very least, for recognizing that he had some chops and something to offer the voters. That it didn’t work out nationally this time around is nothing to be ashamed about. He’ll always have Florida, and there are much worse things a conservative could have than Jeb Bush’s record in Florida.