Jeb Bush has had better days — and probably weeks, months and years.
After the failure of his campaign to catch on — and a very poor recent debate performance — some commentators have suggested that his candidacy is doomed and that is time for the former Florida governor to call it a day. Since leading in the polls at the beginning of the year and having a super PAC raise an outrageous sum of money in support of his candidacy, Bush has floundered, unable to sell his well-regarded gubernatorial record in an election season where voters so far seem to prefer political outsiders.
Bush’s RealClearPolitics national polling average currently stands at 5.8 percent, behind Donald Trump, Ben Carson, [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] and [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore]. The two most recent national polls released Wednesday — from Fox News and Quinnipiac — peg Bush’s national support even lower, at 4 percent. It’s not inconceivable that 4 percent represents the number of out-of-touch George W. Bush fanatics within the Republican Party who believe he is still president and think they are registering their support for his re-election campaign when they hear the telephone pollster utter the name Bush.
But as bad as Bush’s national poll numbers look, especially for someone who came into the race with such high expectations, if you dig deeper into the numbers, you’ll find even worse indicators for the former Florida governor. Here are four examples:
1.) Bush’s poll numbers have fallen in New Hampshire despite a major TV ad buy
After leading in the polls in New Hampshire as late as June, Bush has fallen to 5th place in a state many think is a must win for him. According to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average, Bush trails Trump, Carson, Rubio and John Kasich in the Granite State. In one recent New Hampshire poll, Cruz was beating Bush as well.
What makes these numbers even worse is that Bush continues to persist in the middling single digits in New Hampshire polls even after he and his super PAC have run nearly $5 million (or perhaps more at this point) worth of TV and radio ads in the state since September.
Even after dominating the ad race, voters just don’t seem to be swayed by Bush’s message.
2.) Trump slays Bush in a one-on-one showdown
Team Bush has argued that if the field winnows to Bush and Trump, Bush will ultimately take Trump out.
“Oh, I’d love a two-way race with Trump at the end,” Mike Murphy, who is running the pro-Bush super-PAC Right to Rise, said in an interview at the end of October.
Let’s forget for a moment that it’s quite a presumption to believe Bush will be among the last two men standing and focus on the fact that the evidence that exists suggests, as of now, Trump would trounce Bush mano-a-mano.
In fact, of the candidates that were polled in a recent survey, Bush stands out as being the only candidate Trump would best one-on-one. A PPP poll of New Hampshire released this week separately tested Trump against Bush, Carson, Rubio and Cruz. Trump loses to Carson by 20 percentage point, Rubio by 11 and Cruz by 17. But Trump beats Bush one-on-one by a staggering 18 percentage points.
So much for Bush clearly being a Trump-slayer.
3.) Not much evidence Bush is most electable candidate
Bush has tried to make the argument that he would be the most electable Republican opponent against Hillary Clinton.
But polls don’t really back that up at this point. In the Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, Bush’s net favorability rating nationally was by far the worse of any 2016 contender, Democrat or Republican. Twenty-five percent of people nationwide view Bush favorably, according to the poll, while 58 percent indicate they view him unfavorably, giving him a net favorability of negative 33 percent.
In head-to-head polls against Hillary, Bush doesn’t necessarily perform poorly, but he doesn’t perform the best. In a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, for instance, both Carson and Rubio (albeit only by 1 percentage point) performed better against Hillary than Bush, while Bush performed better against Hillary than Trump.
4.) New poll has Bush 5th in his home state
Bush’s people have compared the former Florida governor’s plight to that of [crscore]John McCain[/crscore]’s in 2008 — before the Arizona senator made a remarkable comeback to win the nomination.
But as low as McCain fell in the polls in 2007 — and he fell very low — he never was down in his home state of Arizona. A poll of Florida Republicans released Tuesday has Bush in 5th place, far behind Trump, Carson, Rubio and Cruz.
If Bush doesn’t even look strong in his home state of Florida, where Republicans know him and his record best, that’s not a particularly good sign.
Of course, as we saw Tuesday in the Kentucky gubernatorial race, sometimes polls don’t capture what’s actually going on. And even if polls accurately reflect what’s going on, it’s obviously theoretically possible Bush could stage a miraculous rise in the polls to claim the nomination.
Those caveats aside, Bush just doesn’t appear to have the “it” factor that successful presidential candidates need to have in the modern media era — and that’s not something that can be easily learned, if it can be learned at all. What’s more, as his campaign appears to be more and more imperiled, it becomes harder for him to raise the money he needs to fund his campaign. Bush has been as reliant on big dollar donations as almost any top-tier presidential campaign this century — and the low-hanging fruit has presumably already been picked.
At this point, it’s probably more likely Bush will be out of the race before the Iowa caucuses than it is he will win a single primary state, much less the nomination.