In 2002, when Jeb Bush was re-elected as governor in Flori-da, it would’ve been impossible to predict his tragic trajectory in this year’s Republican Presidential nomination scrum. At the time, Jeb had been crowned the state’s first-ever two-term Republican governor, and was riding a wave of political power that had been rising since the early nineties, with his elder brother’s election as governor of Texas in 1995. In 2002, the elder Bush brother was President, and Jeb seemed destined to follow in his footsteps.
In 2002, Donald Trump wasn’t taken seriously as a politician. His fledgling run for President in 2000 as a Reform Party member, where he endorsed Oprah as his ideal running mate and counted universal healthcare as a priority, had been completely overshadowed by the Bush-Gore matchup, and had never registered as more than a publicity stunt.
But Trump’s wallet had never been fatter. A tidy windfall from his father’s death enabled him to build the grandiose Trump World Tower and Trump Place in New York City, and in 2003, Trump came into his own as a media personality with The Apprentice. The Apprentice became Trump’s most iconic media property, and was an avenue into even greater exposure to the American people as a personality.
Ironically, in 2016, Trump and Bush’s situations have seemed to reverse. Trump’s TV career has fallen victim to his political ambitions, having been abruptly shown the door by the networks after his bad-for-business remarks about Hispanic immigrants in his presidential candidacy announcement.
Jeb Bush hasn’t held public office for 9 years, as the Bush family name has lost much of its political value.
But Jeb’s business career flourished in the interim, making millions of dollars as a finance and healthcare industry advisor.
The Republican race for nomination in 2016 has only served to further illustrate the perpetual distance between the two, as if they are two sides of the same coin.
Trump has styled himself as the political outsider, unafraid to be politically incorrect and unaffected by private interests simply because he is so rich that nothing could tempt him. Bush, on the other hand, with his stubborn defense of big brother’s policies and his personal financial gain from the 2008 financial crisis, is easily painted as an aristocrat.
Trump has hammered Jeb from this vantage point, making the younger Bush his whipping boy for the entire Republican establishment. Jeb always blustered back, but was completely disarmed as early primary results showed an over-whelming endorsement of Trump’s extreme positions from what should have been Jeb Bush’s base. Bush could only criticize Trump for being inexperienced or too extreme, criticisms that Trump’s support expect, and accept, from their favored candidates.
Bush’s error was failing to account for the political shift in the Republican support. Tactics that won him the Florida governor’s seat comfortably ten years ago against lukewarm Democrats were never going to work against the Democrat-turned-Tea-Party populist in his own party.
Accordingly, Jeb burned out completely in South Carolina, gathering just 7.8 percent of the vote, and unable to muster a single delegate. In the meantime, politicians who pandered effectively to Tea Party politics, like Ted Cruz, who was the closest candidate in front of Bush with nearly three times the votes, stayed in the race with delegate wins.
Bush’s announcement last weekend that his campaign was suspended became inevitable. And Trump, the media expert, the personality, hasn’t faltered. With more than 30 percent of the early primary votes so far, a Donald Trump nomination for Republican presidential candidate is becoming more real as November looms closer.