Trump Shouldn’t Drop Out. Jeb Should.


Establishment Republicans want Donald Trump to drop out of the race; they want Jeb Bush to stay in it to win it. Precisely the opposite needs to happen as soon as humanly possible.

Jeb Bush’s badly flailing campaign has now foundered on the rocks of the Donald Trump candidacy – and Jeb is feeling the pain. Last week, Trump told Bloomberg’s Stephanie Ruhle that despite Jeb’s protestations that his brother, former President George W. Bush, “kept us safe,” 9/11 happened under his watch. “Say what you want,” stated Trump, “the World Trade Center came down during his time….He was president, OK? Don’t blame him or don’t blame him, but he was president.”

Jeb quickly responded by calling Trump an unserious candidate, explaining, “Across the spectrum of foreign policy, Mr. Trump talks about things as though he’s still on The Apprentice…Next week, Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.”

Jeb may be right on the merits. But it won’t help him one bit: the Bush presidency historical rewriting has already taken place. Indeed, it took place in real time as the media insisted there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (false), that Bush’s anti-terror efforts were useless (false), and that the surge in Iraq did not reduce the threat of terrorism (false). Thanks to the legacy of George W. Bush, Jeb’s once-significant lead in the polls has disappeared: he dropped from 15 percent in July, leading the field according to the Monmouth poll, to a mere 5 percent today.

Jeb and the rest of the establishment cling to the slim hope that Trump will somehow implode. He won’t.

Trump, meanwhile, has led the Republican field for nearly four months. As Rush Limbaugh said this morning, if Bush had Trump’s numbers, the establishment would already have declared the race over.

Trump’s comments about Bush are an acid test for the establishment Republicans who want another Bush presidency: if Jeb can’t stop the Trump juggernaut, how will he stop Hillary’s far more powerful juggernaut? If he can’t rebut Trump on Iraq and the war on terror, how can he hope to do so against Clinton, backed by the full power of the mainstream media? The same holds true for the entire Republican field: if they can’t defeat Trump’s economic populist nonsense in a Republican primary, how can they hope to defeat the same proposals from the left? Trump should not be the Republican candidate because he’s simply not conservative – but he’s providing a stiff test for anyone who would grab the brass ring.

It appears that the Jeb campaign has given up on trying to buckle Trump’s knees; instead, they’re targeting Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). They expected Rubio to drop behind Jeb in Florida, but also believed that if they began to lose Florida as a stronghold, they could always turn to Texas; Cruz has locked up the state instead. That led W. to slam Cruz: “I just don’t like that guy,” he told donors. W. specifically objected to Cruz’s strategic alliance with Trump, calling it “opportunistic.”

But the establishment has to know at this point that their only chance of stopping Trump may lie in wooing Rubio and dumping Jeb. The current polling numbers from CNN place Trump in the lead at 27 percent; Ben Carson at 22 percent; and Bush and Rubio with 8 percent. The numbers from NBC tell a similar story: Trump at 25 percent; Carson at 22 percent; Rubio with 13 percent; Cruz and Bush are nearly tied with 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. Trump will not drop out; neither, it appears, will money leader Carson. That means that the establishment candidate must somehow get to thirty percent to feel safe in the primaries. Jeb will never get beyond 10 percent – according to the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, more Republican voters say they’ll never vote for Bush (44 percent) than Trump (36 percent). Rubio and Carson lead the way in terms of their level of general support – 74 percent of Republicans say they could back Carson, and 65 percent say they could back Rubio.

If Bush dropped out, his support would likely move to Rubio, a far more palatable candidate than Jeb. That would bring him up to 21 percent, competitive with the leaders, in the NBC poll, and bring him up to 16 percent, just behind them, in the CNN poll. If Carly Fiorina were persuaded to drop out as well, her support would likely accrue to Rubio, putting him in the lead.

Jeb and the rest of the establishment cling to the slim hope that Trump will somehow implode. He won’t. Neither will Carson. If they want to stop the Trump machine, they’ll need to drop the latest Bush in favor of somebody new. And as Iowa draws closer, that inevitable inflection point does too.