There’s been some speculation that a poor showing in South Carolina could spell the end of the line for Jeb Bush. His polling numbers in Nevada are dismal, and some believe if he fails to pull out even a third place finish today, there really is no point in continuing.
I think that will depend on a few things.
First, a Rubio second place finish will all but guarantee Jeb’s big money backers will abandon him and hop on board the Rubio train. Given that the bulk of Jeb’s support comes from inside-the-beltway Republicans and big-money guys, losing them would mean losing the only people who are eager for a third Bush presidency. Truthfully, this may even happen if Marco finishes in third place. I’m sure there are already some who are quietly shifting allegiance after Marco’s spate of endorsements this week — most notably from Governor Nikki Haley.
But also, it will depend on Jeb. Just how much more abuse is he willing to endure?
I think nobody is more stunned at his lack of support than Jeb himself. He has had a few moments on the campaign trail where his exasperation over his poor showing has gotten the better of him. The only candidate more irritated with voters for inability to detect greatness is Hillary who gets noticeably testy with voters who dare question her abilities to tell the truth, let alone govern.
I suppose it is possible that Jeb would stubbornly decide to keep going in hopes that voters come to their senses and realize that he is as great a candidate as he perceives himself to be. But then again, a poor showing in South Carolina could very well be the wake-up call Jeb needs to take his PAC money and go home.
I would hope that Jeb has enough honor and dignity to gracefully leave the race rather than let his cadre of insider campaign people drag his losing carcass from state to state. Better to get while the getting’s good than endure one humiliating defeat after another.
One final thing that may influence Jeb’s decision will be Kasich. If Kasich also has a poor night tonight, Jeb may wait to see if John decides to exit the race before he makes his decision. Because if Kasich does leave, Jeb would probably benefit from his departure.
But my guess is even if he does abysmally today, Kasich isn’t about to drop out. He believes his best chances to turn the tide of his campaign come from Northern States like Michigan, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota. As long as he has the funding in place, he won’t leave until after those primaries in March.
Jeb, on the other hand, wasn’t able to catch fire in Iowa (where he came in sixth) or New Hampshire (where he dropped to fourth place behind Cruz). If he can’t even place well in a Southern state, his will be a dead campaign walking.
South Carolinians are voting right now in what many believe will be a record turn-out primary. So we shall see if Jeb’s fortunes turn sour.
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