In the eyes of high-powered Republican Party officials, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) may not be the shoe-in presidential candidate they were hoping for.
On the evening of his campaign launch, many long-time Republican Party officials expressed their concern that the younger Bush hadn't performed better in the months since launching his presidential exploratory committee.
“He just hasn’t met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), who supports Lindsay Graham's presidential bid, told The New York Times on Sunday.
Trouble with questions on Iraq, mediocre polling numbers, staff shakeups, and a failure to intimidate primary opponents has left some in Bush's orbit worried about his nomination prospects.
Many operatives on both sides expressed disbelief last month when Bush appeared to say that he would have invaded Iraq in 2003 even knowing what he knows now. It took Bush days and four different versions of his answer to finally admit that he would not have invaded Iraq.
It's important to note that Bush isn't the only Republican candidate to fumble Iraq questions. Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Florida) attempts to assuage hawks in the Republican Party while not embracing the unpopular war has caused him to walk back some of his seemingly pro-Iraq War comments.
In any case, many had hoped that Bush's experience on the presidential campaign trail working on his father and brother's presidential bids would help the younger Bush avoid some of the pratfalls that plague other first-time presidential candidates.
Bush has also suffered from mediocre numbers when polled against primary opponents. Bush is in a uniquely difficult position compared to some of his opponents who can cast themselves as insurgents. Bush's support for immigration reform and Common Core education standards have made him deeply unpopular with some conservative voters.
Bush's lackluster polling numbers also appear to have emboldened establishment candidates who can challenge him from the middle. Bush will likely find himself splitting moderate Republican primary voters with Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), and even former New York Gov. George Pataki (R).
"I thought Jeb would take up all the oxygen," Kasich said, according to the Sun Sentinel. "He hasn't."
People close to Bush said that the former governor has spent the time in the ramp-up to his campaign focusing on raising money. Once the campaign begins in earnest on Monday, The Times reports that Bush will focus more on retail politics in primary states.
Bolstered by his father and brother's vast network of rich donors, Bush still maintains a serious advantage in fundraising, with analysts saying that his super PAC, Right to Rise, is on target to reach the $100 million benchmark that they set at the beginning of the year.
According to The Times, Bush is expected to flood the airwaves in early primary states with fundraising sums that will be announced in July.
With his campaign launch on Monday, Bush is making some changes to address concerns. He's shaken up his staff and appointed a new campaign manager. As The Times notes, Bush's new campaign manager is expected to aggressively go after Republican primary opponents.
Bush is also taking some small steps to distance himself from the unpopular legacy of his brother. On Sunday, Bush debuted his campaign logo. As many expected, it notably omitted his last name.
Ironically, given McCain's statement, Bush's reluctance to distance himself from his father and brother could also become an issue. Last month, the former Florida governor conceded that it was difficult for him to criticize his brother.
"I'm a Bush, I'm proud of it. Like what am I supposed to say?" Bush told The New York Times in May.
"I love my mom and dad. I love my brother, and people are just going to have to get over that," Bush said.
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