Plutocrats love Jeb, but voters don't: Bush's "electability" argument is getting even weaker

If Jeb Bush isn't even electable in a general election matchup, then what's the point of Jeb Bush?

Published August 20, 2015 2:21PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Jim Young)
(Reuters/Jim Young)

Jeb Bush is in terrible shape. He's not leading many polls, though that's fine this early on. The problem is that his fundamentals are hideous. Trump-level hideous. And in at least one case, worse than Trump's.

A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday pins Jeb Bush's favorable rating at 35 percent compared to 57 percent who view him unfavorably. The only good news is that he's 30 points above water among Republicans, 61 percent to 31 percent, and Republicans are the demographic that counts in a Republican primary. (He remains underwater among Tea Party supporters, though.) He's way underwater among Democrats -- but also among independents, who view him unfavorably 30 percent to 62 percent.

Then there's ol' Don Trump, who's long held the position of candidate viewed most unfavorably (though very much liked by the people who do view him favorably, hence the high national and early-state polling numbers). Trump's favorability rating sits at 38 percent, with his unfavorable at 58 percent. Not that different from Bush.

And then consider how each fares in a matchup with Hillary Clinton, whose favorables aren't in such great shape either. Clinton defeats Trump by six percentage points, 51 percent to 45 percent. Against Bush? She leads by nine percentage points, 52 percent to 43 percent.

All of which raises some questions about what, exactly, the GOP establishment and the many, many wealthy donors who have donated to Bush see in him, expect from him. Or as the New York Times' Nate Cohn puts it:

Jeb Bush is supposed to be the electable one. That's why establishment donors flock to him: get him past the primary by giving his super PAC over $100 million, with which he can slam everyone else for as long as necessary, and then he can win the general election in a way that Cruz or Walker or Trump cannot. That's because Jeb is supposedly the most reasonable of the general election candidates, the least beholden to ideological overreach, and the one most rhetorically open-armed about wooing Hispanic voters into the Republican coalition.

The only problem is that the more the public sees of Jeb, the more they dislike him and the thought of him becoming president. That wretched 30-62% figure among independents, combined with a head-to-head hypothetical in which he fares worse against Hillary Clinton than TRUMP! does, would seem to throw the whole rationale behind the Jeb Bush campaign down the toilet.

Which is funny, because Jeb Bush doesn't come across as nearly as much of an asshole as many of the other candidates do. He can seem mumbly or boring or stilted, but not actively malevolent. That he's doing so poorly among independents -- and that 92 percent of independents know enough about him to have an opinion -- is likely a function of his last name. Bush hopes that the more he shows himself and explains his plans, the more he'll be viewed as his own person. He's not executing this plan especially well.

The smartest thing that Jeb Bush has done this year was convince a whole host of wealthy Republican donors and establishment operatives to get behind his candidacy early. Now that they've invested so much into this candidate, they're willing to stick it out well past the point at which the candidate has proven himself to be a boob.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell

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