Mainstream Press Anoint Jeb Bush ‘Frontrunner’ Despite Lackluster Poll Numbers

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush may find out that Wall Street money will not buy him the love of GOP primary voters like it does mainstream media elites who are rushing to cast him as the 2016 frontrunner.

As soon as Mitt Romney announced that he would not make a third White House run, the mainstream press immediately anointed Bush as the clear Republican 2016 frontrunner. They made their pronouncements even though Bush had not yet proven with his speeches that he can be a successful candidate in the digital age and neither had the best ground game nor the support of grassroots voters who dominate the early nominating contests.

The Washington Post, for instance, declared that Romney’s “decision to forgo a third try at the White House has settled the question of whether the 2016 GOP presidential field has a front-runner — bestowing a coveted status on former Florida governor Jeb Bush that also raises new challenges and perils” and noted that “Republicans have a tradition of picking an anointed one early.”

Bush does not have the support among conservative voters (they distrust him on immigration and Common Core and view him as another moderate Bush that sides with the establishment over Reagan conservatives) that Hillary Clinton has among Democrats, but the mainstream press often suggest that Bush is just as inevitable because of his vast network of donors. Wall Street loves Bush (perhaps because he supports comprehensive amnesty legislation and Common Core)–he recently raised $4 million at an event that cost attendees $100,000–and establishment operatives with ties to his father and brother support the family brand as well. But that institutional support has not translated into an overwhelming lead in the polls that would warrant “frontrunner status.”

Bush has the lead in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls. But with the exception of one poll, Bush’s lead does not exceed the margin of error, which is hardly a sign of a clear and established front-runner. Hillary Clinton’s lead among Democrats is much more sizable. Early state insiders believe there is no clear frontrunner on the Republican side, and state polls back up their claims.

In Iowa, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee leads the average of the polls. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads in the most recent influential Des Moines Register poll. Bush has hired Dave Kochel, who led Mitt Romney’s Iowa team, but he was in seventh in that Des Moines Register Iowa poll that Walker led with 15%. Bush received 8%. Like in other state polls, there were signs in Des Moines Register poll that indicate Bush may have a low ceiling–46% of Iowans viewed him favorably while 43% already viewed him unfavorably.

In New Hampshire, Walker holds a slight lead in the RealClearPolitics average of the polls. He and Bush have led in two recent Granite State polls. Bush held a narrow lead the most recent Saint Anselm College poll over Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), but a whopping 41% of GOP primary voters in the Granite State already believe that Bush’s views on immigration would be a “deal-killer,” as Breitbart News noted, which is another sign that Bush’s ceiling may be low.

In South Carolina, a state that has been important to his family in past presidential cycles, Bush leads in a Gravis poll. But he may have many hurdles ahead in the conservative first-in-the-South state, though Sen. Lindsey Graham could help Bush split some of the vote if Graham decides to run.

In California, a state where moderate Republicans like Bush usually poll well in the early stages, Walker leads with 20% in the most recent California Political Review poll, as Breitbart News reported. Bush is tied with Ben Carson at around 10%.

Bush, who reportedly intends to raise $100 million before formally entering the contest, is trying to use the “shock and awe” fundraising strategy that his brother George successfully employed but has failed other GOP presidential aspirants. John McCain tried to use the same “inevitably” strategy in 2008, but when he supported the Bush-Kennedy comprehensive amnesty legislation, his fundraising dried up, and McCain had to fly in coach class to New Hampshire and lay off many of his staff. Rudy Giuliani also tried to secure the nomination in 2008 by winning the money primary and ended up infamously spending $50 million to win one delegate.

And that was before today’s digital age, where a candidate’s financial advantage does not pay as much dividends as it did before new media started to democratize politics and the media. Though Bush is trying to be a “digital” candidate–he announced his intentions to explore a candidacy on Facebook–his team has already had multiple mishaps.

This week, Bush’s chief technology officer resigned days after he was hired because Bush’s team did not vet him–and his past tweets and comments that referred to women as “sluts,” mocked gays, and praised Martin Luther King for not sagging his pants. Bush also published emails from his days as governor of Florida, but his team immediately scrambled after new media outlet The Verge found that Bush did not omit the social security numbers and sensitive medical information of Floridians.

Bush has also not shown an ability to connect from the stump. His most recent speech in Detroit was panned as lackluster, and he seems to channel Mitch Daniels and Jon Huntsman in his public remarks.

But just like the mainstream press did with eventual losers McCain and Romney, they are trying gin up Bush’s inevitable path to the nomination and matchup with Hillary Clinton in the general. Conservative scholar and talk radio host Mark Levin has insisted that conservatives must nominate a bold conservative in 2016 so that grassroots voters do not stay at home like many did in 2008 and 2012 because they could not vote for the top of the ticket. Bush does not excite conservative grassroots voters, and many in the mainstream press and Democrats like David Axelrod who proclaim that Bush would be Hillary Clinton’s toughest challenger know full well that the easiest way for a Democrat to win the White House is to run against a moderate Republican like Jeb Bush.


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