POLITICS

Jeb! Comeback Watch: A Gentle Nudge Toward The Exit

Jeb Bush has a plan to spend his way to a win. But GOP party elites, they just don't get it, man.

For a few months now, Jeb Bush's campaign has been insisting that the Jeb! Comeback is on, and that the media should get on the ground floor of this amazing narrative. It's an idea upon which a lot of money has been spent, anyway. Here's how the comeback is going.

The Jeb Bush campaign is all about one thing: spending those dollars. Lord, have mercy, how they have spent those dollars! All of y'all out there playing Powerball on these streets would have been better off if you'd positioned yourselves to benefit from Jeb's burn rate. As NBC News' Mark Murray notes, Bush has blown $52.8 million thus far on ads alone -- just about $10 million or $12 million less than the rest of the Republican field combined. And there's no end in sight.

Or is there? As Politico's Eli Stokols reports, "establishment Republicans" are starting to circle the Bush campaign like a murder of crows out of increasing concern that they only thing they might accomplish is permanently damaging Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, or worse, end up being the guy who paves the way for a nominee that no one (among the establishment, anyway) wants. As one-time Mitt Romney strategist Stuart Stevens tells Stokols: "This is something Jeb Bush has to decide. Does he want his legacy to be that he elected Donald Trump or Ted Cruz?”

How has it come to pass that what was once a nominal campaign for the Republican nomination has become a fully-funded hit-job on Rubio? Part of the problem involves the way that the so-called "lane" to be the "respectable" GOP option has gotten clogged by campaigns that haven't taken off. Bush is trying to pick off Rubio to put him out of the competition and become the first option for Rubio voters. There are other candidates -- John Kasich, Chris Christie -- who are plying themselves at the same task (though perhaps not quite so pointedly or extravagantly as Bush is doing to Rubio). This story is bad for Jeb, though, because here you see party elites attempting to be the selectors in this blood-sport, and they're indicating that maybe it's time for Bush to quit the stage.

But another problem is the simple fact that Bush's empire has amassed a lot of campaign money, and campaign money wants to be spent. As Stokols' piece notes, a massively-endowed super PACs like Bush's Right To Rise almost can't restrain itself:

“The chances of those ads hurting Rubio are a lot stronger than the odds of them helping Jeb,” said Curt Anderson, a Republican strategist who ran Bobby Jindal’s campaign last year. “The Right to Rise folks don’t want to end the campaign with $30 million in the bank and they probably realize the positive spots haven’t helped Jeb at all.

“But how these ads help Jeb, no one understands.”

That's just because they don't understand ... The Comeback!

This has been the Jeb! Comeback Watch for Jan. 14, 2016. Jeb Bush is currently in fifth place in Iowa (4.2 percent), sixth place in New Hampshire (7.8 percent) and fifth place nationally (5.4 percent).

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