'Jeb!' Becomes 'Jeb?' -- Can Rubio and Ryan Revive the GOP?



By Mark Green

Shrum and Matalin debate likelihood that a lackluster Jeb can recover, and whether the candidates' anti-media attacks are shrewd though stupid. Both laud Boehner for getting the budget done in way that helps Ryan, yet allows GOP presidential candidates to balk without consequence.

GOP Debate: Rubio-Bush. Shades of Jackson-Sharpton. The Protégé Also Rises is Shrum's title for the debate story.

Both panelists are shocked at the political malfeasance of Jeb and his team. Bob -- who's done his share of presidential debate prep -- marvels how Jeb made the mistake of launching a predictable attack in a way that allowed a prepared Rubio to have a devastating counter punch. "That will go down as one of the most memorable debate moments ever." Let us here recall the top two: Bentsen-Quayle ("You're no JFK") and Mondale-Hart ("Where's the beef").

Mary, who knows all the Bushes well, is surprised that Jeb is doing so poorly since "he was always considered the best politician and candidate in the family. And his [attendance" attack went counter to his message of being a 'happy warrior.'...He should be attacking the liberals, Hillary, but not Marco."

Then there was Jeb's next day response, re-asserting that he has the "money and organization" to win. "That was unbelievable.." says Bob. "It's a process and political response that nobody cares about, not a message that resonates. This guy did better when he had joy in his heart and carbs in his stomach. "

And now? Both think it foolish for his "independent" superpac to spend a chunk of money, as its head Mike Murphy implied, because Rubio "won't look so good when voters get their second and third look at him." They recommend that he build himself up first by acknowledging error and then pivoting to the positive. "He could say a version of -- 'You know sometimes you throw a punch and hit youself,' and then explain what his real message is," offers Bob pro bono. Mary thinks that exactly right and says jokingly (or not), "I'll pass it along." (Tune in in two weeks to the Milwaukee debate.)

We then discuss whether Rubio has "it," that ineffable talent that you know when you see it? Mary claims that when she first saw him as a young candidate convincingly criticizing Social Security at a Senior Citizens Center, she told James, "this guy's going to run for president someday." The Host asks both: yes he's a smooth and convincing communicator but is he policy-thin like the superficial John Edwards or policy-deep like Bill and Barack? Mary: "he's policy productive -- being a practical numbers guy." Bob: "That's a good phrase -- policy productive..." but we'll only really know when he ends up debating someone one on one, especially someone as formidable as Hillary.

Host: will Jeb pull a rabbit out of his hat or just pull out? Given his recent performance and Rubio's rise, he probably has the next debate in two weeks to stop his descent. But give him credit: he said that he'd risk losing the nomination in order to win the general election by not pandering to the far right. So far, so bad...

GOP Debate: Trump and Carson. Of course these two in polls have been leading by large margins for months and together account for over half of GOP voters. But at the risk of being yelled at by GOP candidates or trollers, the Host wonders if they are indeed "cartoon candidates" -- Trump for babbling about his and Carson's religion before manically fretting about his worsening polls and Carson for babbling about Jews with guns stopping Hitler and for using medical metaphors about as often as Chauncy Gardner relied on gardening ones...not to mention that no one's been nominated and elected ever in America with so little governing experience and depth.

Mary sticks up for Carson: "He came to the house and was very smart and spoke about everything in depth for an hour." She adds that they are giving voice to the anger of the base who send conservatives to the Congress and nothing changes. Bob thinks that Trump's numbers may not shrink much because a lot of white anger is sustaining him no matter what he says. But Carson may not be able to do well anywhere after possibly winning Iowa.

With superpacs sustaining candidates and many early states with proportional allocation of delegates, could there be a brokered convention this time? Shrum thinks that's no more than a 10 percent chance, though the chance of a Rubio-Cruz finals is growing more plausible.
Host: Since Iowa seems more like an Evangelical Primary than a Political Caucus -- see Rev. Pat Robertson's strong showing in 1988 -- it's unlikely to mean much if Carson wins there. And unless the Republicans are even crazier than the Host thinks, they will not let either Trump or Carson get close to a nomination after enduring eight years of the Kenyan Socialist.

GOP Debate: Media Bashing. Since forever but certainly since the John King-Newt Gingrich flare-up in 2012, "attacking the media is the Republicans' ambrosia" in Shrum's phrase. Hence the Rubio/Cruz/Christie pile-on over the CNBC moderators. But while applause-getting, eventually the GOP nominee will face independent journalists asking tough questions and will have to have a message for the country.

Host: It's pretty amusing that the candidates regard a cable channel pitched to wealthy businessmen and that includes Lawrence Kudlow and Rick Santelli as lamestream lefties...not to mention that their questions reflected the concerns of even many Republicans privately that some of their candidates are indeed cartoonish. But when Cruz effectively dressed them down - especially since they couldn't respond -- and implied that only questioners who are Republicans should question them -- he showed an authoritarian mindset about the nature of journalism in America. Putin too doesn't like an independent media. But if the GOP want to 'privatize' their process so Hannity replaces Harwood next time -- and the sponsoring station wants to provide pillows, beer, snacks and conjugal visits during breaks -- well that's not the way the first amendment was intended to operate.

On Ryan Rising and Getting to Yes on a Budget. Well, that wasn't so hard -- getting a budget enacted for two years?

Bob thinks that if HRC is elected and tries to work with Speaker Ryan, it still will prove hard to contain the TeaParty/FreedomCaucus because of how distressed the GOP will then be. But he and Mary agree that Boehner ingeniously helped Ryan navigate his early months as Speaker while allowing GOP hopefuls to attack the Boehner-Pelosi deal without being responsible for any negative consequences.

We discuss how the possible Rubio-Ryan leadership combination could help revive Republican prospects after years of threatened and actual shutdowns and a Caucus lurching to the Far Right. But Mary thoughtfully cautions that "Ryan united the House but not the party."

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