"Lights out for Jeb": The most brutal responses to Jeb Bush's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad debate

After another dismal debate performance, the Bush death watch begins. Here's what the top talkers had to say

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published October 29, 2015 10:25PM (EDT)


"I'm pretty damn glum tonight," vocal Jeb Bush advocate and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro lamented on-air immediately after the debate. Her favored candidate not only failed to steal the spotlight for a much needed momentum boost, but managed to open himself up to the biggest slap down of the night via his one-time protégé, Marco Rubio. Troubled by his disastrous performance, Navarro implored Bush to "take the next 10 days ... to really figure out how to dominate in debates."

"It's a long haul. Ana, hang in there, girl," Bush said in a post-debate interview, responding to his longtime friend. "It's a long haul, baby. A few more debates to go. I'm out-campaigning everybody. I'm working hard and we're raising the resources."

But others in Jeb's orbit and the political punditry at-large don't seem to agree with Jeb's rosy assessment of his chances following last night's dreary performance.

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum broke down Jeb's debate stage demise: "Jeb Bush is chronically unstrategic ... Jeb Bush does not improvise ... Bush does not improvise because he dreads confrontation ... When Bush fails, he discourages easily ... When discouraged, Bush—although a physically big man—psychically shrinks into his own feelings of hurt and rejection."

Top Jeb fundraiser David Beightol conceded that the "format was tough" but shrugged off Jeb's poor performance. "Jeb is a doer, not a debater," he told CNN.

But one family friend suggested to Politico that Jeb schedule another family huddle to discuss his campaign's future soon. “He has some tough decisions to make over Thanksgiving.”

Another nameless Republican who has reportedly endorsed Bush told Politico “Jeb tried too hard" during the CNBC debate, while another said he has a hard time imagining how Jeb recovers from his flailing performance.

Conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru, whose wife still works for Jeb having apparently survived last week's massive campaign layoffswrote that "Bush needed a good debate after having to make staff cutbacks last week, and this wasn't it."'

Fox News contributor Guy Benson said Jeb "fizzled," deeming Rubio's slap down "lights out for Jeb."

"Bush was MIA. Rubio won," Republican strategist Liz Mair told Business Insider. Former senior John McCain adviser Steve Schmidt called Wednesday the worst day of Jeb's campaign on MSNBC. "Marco Rubio knocked Jeb Bush out tonight, flat on his butt."

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough laughed that  Jeb's "donors are running for the exit.” Matt Drudge predicted Jeb's impending doom and return to life off the Paleo diet with this Twitter quip:

Daily Caller's Matt Lewis called on Jeb to quit the race for the sake of the Republican establishment:

At this point, it seems the likelihood of Bush a) tarnishing his reputation and b) inadvertently helping Donald Trump win the GOP nomination greatly exceeds the chance that he could turn things around. His body language betrays a guy who doesn’t really want to do what it takes to win today — and who is out of step with the current Republican Party.


Thoughtful conservatives, if they are to stop Donald Trump and Ben Carson, must — at some point — coalesce around an alternative. Marco Rubio seems the most likely choice. Unless Jeb Bush destroys him.

Does Bush really want that to be his legacy?

And it's not just conservatives piling on the Jeb's dead bandwagon.

CNN's Alisyn Camerota criticized Bush for not appearing on "New Day" Thursday to recap his debate performance the night before, noting that various other candidates made the time to appear post-debate.

Nate Silver said "Jeb Bush is toast,” noting that FiveThirtyEight's staff straw poll gave "Bush’s average grade was a C-, putting him at the bottom of the 10-candidate group."

“Bush needed to appear as the strongest establishment candidate,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “He didn’t achieve that.”

As for Rubio, who delivered the knockout punch to Jeb on the debate stage, his nomination prospects have surged to more than one-in-three in the wake of the CNBC debate, according to the prediction markets.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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