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Jeb! Didn't Last Long

Jeb Bush’s formal entry into the presidential race this week lowered the bar for White House aspirants everywhere. Not since Ludacris has America been forced to endure such a terrible “roll-out.”

For a typical candidate, the attention gleaned from a campaign announcement results in a media honeymoon. Bush, however, is not your average candidate; he’s plagued by his lockstep support for his brother’s unpopular polices and positions that are either toxic to the conservative base or unacceptable to the general electorate. A scratch beneath the surface of his record as governor and in the private sector reveals a reality not matched by his rhetoric. Whether its challenging the pope, promoting cuts to social security, or giving the voters and the conservative base more reason for suspicion, Bush’s campaign is tripping over itself right out of the gates.

Watch the latest from American Bridge and read the clips from Bush’s first week as an “official” candidate:

  • “Did not have a strong start”
  • “Bush simply faces too many headwinds”
  • “Conservatives dislike his support for controversial common core education standards”
  • “Another is his position on immigration, which the GOP right considers amnesty”

Breitbart: Jeb! Goes Off-script: ‘The Next President Will Pass Meaningful Immigration Reform’

That should be the giveaway for so many Republicans: when he’s on script, Jeb’s a conservative with rhetoric no different than Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX). When he’s off-script, Jeb turns against conservative policy in a heartbeat.

New York Magazine: Jeb Bush Gave George W. Bush the Stupidest Idea Ever, Then Stole It From Him

The centerpiece of Jeb Bush’s campaign is a promise to restore 4 percent growth. This goal has already been claimed by the guy Bush is trying to make people forget — his brother, Dubya, whose post-presidential center has also made “4% growth” its primary theme. Borrowing your theme from a failed ex-president brother you’re trying not to be associated with seems like a questionable strategy.

“Four percent growth” is not a great idea. It’s arguably not even an idea at all.

Bush’s response to this failure was not, of course, to rethink his policies. It was to label his economic ideas the “4% Growth Project,” employing as a branding device a target that his administration achieved in zero of the eight years in which it held office. This is a bizarre approach to presidential legacy burnishing. Even terrible presidents realize they need to find some positive aspect of their work and emphasize that. This is why Nixon spent most of his post-presidential life emphasizing his outreach to China and other diplomatic feats.

If you’re the brother of the designer of the Titanic, you might not want to name your proposal for a new shipbuilding design the “Arrive Safely In New York Without Any Passenger Fatalities Project.” And yet this was Jeb’s idea!

IB Times: Jeb Bush: Next President Should Privatize Social Security

Jeb Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday — acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats.

Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts.

Speaking in Derry, New Hampshire, Tuesday, Bush acknowledged that when his brother President George W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security in 2005, he met great bipartisan resistance.

“My brother tried, got totally wiped out,” Bush said. “Republicans and Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The next president is going to have to try again.”

MSNBC: Jeb Bush’s line on Social Security draws scrutiny

Jeb Bush’s position on Social Security was already controversial. The Republican presidential hopeful, just two weeks ago, emphasized his support for raising the retirement age for Social Security eligibility – a broadly unpopular position. Making matters slightly worse, the former Florida governor was mistaken when talking about what he thinks is the current retirement age.

On the contrary, Bush’s approach to Social Security is likely to be a very big deal for his campaign should he win the Republican nomination. Not only is he on board with raising the retirement age, but Bush is also on record endorsing his brother’s plan during the 2005 fight.

There was some ambiguity yesterday, but the political dangers of Bush’s position couldn’t be clearer.

Salon: Everything you need to know about Jeb Bush’s dangerous education agenda

During his eight years as governor, Jeb Bush was a leader in dismantling public education. Detailed in a January New Yorker article by Alec MacGillis, Bush’s push for for-profit education has been the former governor’s passion, and those looking to profit on children will likely fall in behind him as presidential candidate. By all accounts, Bush appears to truly believe that the sort of reform he advocates is the answer to a flagging American education system. But his genuine passion and conviction doesn’t mean his “solution” isn’t dangerous. (Likewise, his brother may have genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein was a WMD-bearing chum of bin Laden’s, but we see where that got us.)

After leaving office, Bush teamed up with Best in 2011 to be paid spokesperson for and investor (to an unspecified degree) in Best’s Academic Partnerships, a firm that focuses on higher education and is said to glean as much as much as 70 percent of students’ tuitions paid to public university by routing their education through Academic Partnership’s online product. The company has been criticized for leeching public universities in the way that charter school firms and privatized academic corporations siphon public money away from K-12 schooling.

The Atlantic: Jeb Bush Tries to Push the Pope out of Politics

If you think Jeb Bush has learned from his disastrous answer last month about invading Iraq, just look at the answer he gave on Tuesday about the environment and the pope.

Asked by Sean Hannity about Pope Francis’ forthcoming encyclical about climate change, Jeb responded that “I think religion ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

Intellectually, morally, and politically, that’s a dumb answer.

Ever since his Iraq answer more than a month ago, election-watchers have been waiting for Jeb to improve as a candidate. The wait goes on.

TIME: Jeb Bush’s Response to Pope Francis’s Climate Change Encyclical Is Hogwash

It only took former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who announced his presidential campaign Monday, one day on the campaign trail to go after Francis on this issue. “I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home,” Bush said about Francis’s encyclical. “But I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.” A devout Catholic, Bush said religion “ought to be about making us better as people, less about things [that] end up getting into the political realm.”

This is absolute hogwash, and Bush knows it.

“As a public leader, one’s faith should guide you,” Bush said in 2009. “In the United States, many people think you need to keep your faith, put it in a security box, if you’re an elected official — put it in a safety deposit box until you finish your service as a public servant and then you can go get it back. I never felt that was appropriate.”

Bush is wrong: The church must get involved in politics. In fact, a “good Catholic,” Pope Francis has said, “meddles in politics.” We don’t do this to elect a candidate or advance a party, but because politics affects human flourishing, and we’re called by God to defend the dignity of every woman, man, and child.

Breitbart: Jeb Bush Greeted By Protesters Of All Political Stripes In New Hampshire

Grassroots conservative Republicans and Independents, such as the New Hampshire Tea Party coalition, as well as members of the “no labels” group, joined with climate change activists to protest Bush’s stance on a variety of issues, reports Londonderry Patch.

Protesters stood outside the Adams Memorial Opera House with signs that blasted Bush for his support for the Common Core standards and NSA spying, as well as his apparent failure to articulate an environmental plan.

Washington Post: A housing bubble made Jeb Bush look great — and then it tanked Florida’s economy

Jeb Bush is boasting about his economic success as governor. But he owes a large amount of that success — well more than half, at least — to the housing bubble that popped as he was leaving office, leaving Florida in deep and prolonged recession.

Just as the housing bubble helped the Florida economy rev hotter than the nation under Bush, its collapse pushed the state into a more severe recession. Florida construction employment grew by half under Bush, more than double the national rate — and in the following eight years, it fell nearly twice as fast.

The most striking stat, though, is growth. Under Bush, Florida indeed averaged 4.4 percent growth per year, after adjusting for inflation; at the same time, the nation averaged 3 percent growth. In the four years after Bush left office, as housing prices tumbled and recession set in, the nation averaged 0.3 percent growth. Florida averaged -2.4 percent.

Associated Press: As president, Bush would face entanglements from board roles

Companies that paid Bush as a board member or adviser regularly hire lobbyists to press issues in Washington before federal agencies, the House, Senate and White House, according to a review by The Associated Press. Others have been fined by U.S. agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, or faced inquiries from the Securities and Exchange Commission or Justice Department. Some are expected to conduct business beyond November 2016 directly affected by U.S. government decisions.

That nexus raises potentially thorny questions for Bush if he were elected president: How would he respond when one of the companies that paid him seeks favorable treatment or undergoes scrutiny from the federal government? And, how would federal agencies that report to the White House respond?

Potential conflicts of interest involve federal interactions with companies that paid him millions.Beyond his own companies and educational foundations, Bush was a board member or adviser to at least 15 companies and nonprofits after leaving the governor’s office early in 2007, an AP review found. At least seven of those companies lobbied the federal government in recent years — an effort likely to continue over issues ranging from health care to corporate taxes.

Politico: Jeb Bush leaves room for new rivals

Despite the prodigious fundraising, the widespread name recognition and the substantive executive experience, it’s becoming increasingly obvious: for all Jeb Bush’s assets as a presidential candidate, establishment Republicans aren’t yet on board.

On paper, Bush has the qualities of a field-clearing front-runner, the kind who might’ve scared off opposition in simpler times — his presidential lineage, substantive mien and gargantuan war chest make him an instant establishment force. Yet party luminaries say the combination of unshackled political giving, Bush’s own stumbles and GOP desperation to take back the White House has led to a surprisingly unsettled field and a wait-and-see attitude among Republicans.

Nowhere is the dynamic clearer than in Kasich’s quiet preparation. He openly acknowledges that his prospective bid is based partly on the premise that Bush is too weak to rally Republicans to victory.

Five Thirty Eight: Pols And Polls Say The Same Thing: Jeb Bush Is A Weak Front-Runner

The endorsement race echoes the polling (Bush leads national polls by a speck and New Hampshire polls by a bit, and is running in the second tier in Iowa): Bush is a weak front-runner.

When we weight these endorsements by position (10 points for each governor, 5 points for each senator and 1 point for each representative), Bush’s 13 points account for 28 percent of all endorsement points so far. That’s OK, but not great. And most Republican bigwigs haven’t made a choice at all.

Fox News: It’s really more like ‘Jeb?’ than ‘Jeb!’

The biggest disadvantage that Jeb Bush has isn’t his last name, but rather the relative quality of the Republican field he is facing.

That’s not to say that being George W. Bush’s little brother is an unalloyed positive for the former Florida governor. But as polls have shown, it is (no surprise) less of a problem for GOP primary voters than with the general electorate. Plus, Dubya is mellowing in the cask of public opinion, especially as President Obama flails about over Iraq.

But still, as he launches his official candidacy, Bush is struggling to assert his dominance. Bush is probably a better establishment-backed candidate than either of the two after his brother, and both John McCain and Mitt Romney won by comfortable margins. Yet, this time seems different.

Jeb Bush is a better candidate in many ways than Romney or McCain were. But unfortunately for him, his chief rivals are furlongs ahead of the 2008 and 2012 pack.

New York Times: Jeb Bush’s Surprising Struggle With Moderates

He has not won the invisible primary, the behind-the-scenes competition for elite support that often decides the nomination, and he has not even emerged as a favorite of the party’s large block of more moderate voters. He starts in a weaker position than not only his brother in 1999 or his father in 1987, but also Mitt Romney in 2011.

What is surprising, though, is Mr. Bush’s relatively vulnerable standing in the places he had seemed strong only a few months ago. It’s no surprise that he has miserable numbers among Iowa caucus-goers, who are very conservative, and Tea Party supporters nationwide. It is surprising that he has not emerged as a clear favorite in New Hampshire, where self-identified moderates make up nearly half of the electorate. In national polls, he fares no better against Hillary Rodham Clinton than Marco Rubio or Mr. Walker, and his favorability ratings are worse than all of them. The party establishment hasn’t unified around him, perhaps in part as a result of these indicators.

Mr. Bush’s struggle is a reflection of his own missteps and weaknesses, like a handful of stumbles on the campaign trail and his unpopular last name. But it is also a reflection of the strength of his competition — not just from the mainstream candidates who can take a slice of the relatively moderate voters and elites he requires to be viable, but also from the conservative candidates he ultimately needs to defeat.

Even if his fund-raising is as strong as he hoped, there is no reason to expect it will be decisive: Mr. Romney barely won pivotal states like Ohio and Michigan in the 2012 primaries, despite an overwhelming financial and organizational edge over a candidate, Rick Santorum, who was not nearly as strong as Mr. Bush’s competition is today. Perhaps most important, it’s surprisingly hard to find prominent elites who support Mr. Bush — aside from a spurt of donors and high-profile aides who joined his team a few months ago and late last week.