Rennie: How dynasties die; why Democrats fear Rubio
Most dynasties die by revolution or war. Bad marriages have played a role over centuries. Wednesday was the first time one perished on the stage at the University of Colorado in Boulder in front of 14 million voters. What a way for befuddled Jeb Bush to go — his candidacy ended by his own foolish, smug intervention aimed at taking down rising rival U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.
There was a time during the George W. years when Bush family courtiers would bemoan the loss in the family line Jeb suffered when he was defeated in his 1994 race for governor of Florida. That was the year his older brother seized the prize in Texas, setting him up for the 2000 run for president that true believers thought was meant for Jeb.
Jeb, they would say in not-so-hushed voices, was the bright, intellectually nimble one. So much the superior to that plodding brother. The hard matriarch, Barbara, was said to regret Jeb’s demotion in the presumed line of succession. Oh, the injustice of it all.
What a favor those Florida voters did the nation in 1994. John Ellis Bush, to put it as kindly as possible during a ferocious campaign, is hopeless, a bumbler for the ages. The debate stage has become his mortal enemy, a killing field. He never would have defeated Al Gore in 2000. He might even have found a way to lose the Republican nomination to John McCain that year.
All the candidates spend considerable time in debate preparation, but it’s a mystery what the brain trust does in Bush’s conclaves. Leapin’ lizards, the prep school old boy cannot string two pointed sentences together. Someone with an exaggerated notion of Bush’s debating skills must have suggested that Wednesday night would be just the place to take down that pesky upstart, Rubio.
Bush would confront Rubio on the Senate votes he is missing to campaign for president. Yes, that’s the ticket, Jeb. No one has done that since the 2008 Obama-Clinton contest. Bush would be able to speak for all those aggrieved fellow Floridians who are having trouble getting their calls returned by Rubio while he’s making new friends in early caucus and primary states.
Team Bush must not have war-gamed it. Rubio, to no one’s surprise was ready for the attendance question. Thus did the assassin become the corpse. The target triumphant. The Florida newspaper calling on Rubio to choose between his seat in the Senate and campaign for the presidency never complained when senators Graham, Kerry, Clinton and Obama took long leaves from their committee meetings and roll call votes. Jeb never mewled about McCain missing votes in 2008.
You’re desperate, my poor sad friend (you know that’s what he was thinking).
Rubio’s aria included a slam at the mainstream media and a hearty warning against the looming threat of Hillary Clinton. Thunderous applause accompanied by hoots and hollers for Rubio concluded the exchange.
Like a tall Napoleon at Waterloo, Bush had misjudged and suffered a catastrophic defeat. He staggered through the rest of the evening, bleeding and bewildered, reduced to ill-natured Twitter and Facebook fodder. The poor guy could not even muster a fake free market answer on whether DraftKings and FanDuel fantasy sports sites should be regulated. That was left to bloviator Chris Christie to step over the deflated Bush and bash the nanny state on behalf of sports fans across the nation.
Bush the presidential candidate, in the vernacular of Monty Python, “is an ex-parrot. It is not merely stunned. It has ceased to be and gone to meet its maker.” The dynasty has ended. Let history record that Marco Rubio severed the political line of generations of thrusting Bushes. They are no more.
And let the word go forth to Republicans who would ask the nation to deny Clinton their pretensions and entitlements. There is a reason they fear Marco Rubio more than all others. They know he can defeat her, and not simply in traditional battleground states. No, no. Rubio will take the fight to her traditionally safe Democratic redoubts such as Pennsylvania and Michigan. A shambolic debate for Bush was a terrible night for Hillary Clinton, too.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and former state legislator in Connecticut. He has been a columnist with the Hartford Courant for more than a decade. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.