Jeb seems to be wasting his campaign. I don’t mean that he is wasting donor money on ads. He is wasting what might be an even more important campaign resource. Real campaigns give candidates the time and resources to prepare for events like debates. One of Romney’s biggest advantages was that he had people who could drill him on likely questions from the media. They could prepare him for the attacks from his opponents and they could practice in-depth strategies for how do deal with criticisms. “If he says this, then you say that.” This is a big advantage over candidates who are just out there winging it. Those other candidates aren’t necessarily lazy. They just lack the resources and the time to do all of the debate preparation.
Bush has all the campaign resources, but he is the one who just seems to be winging it. He had no Plan B for Rubio’s comeback on the Senate attendance issue. That was political malpractice by somebody. He has never developed a strategy for dealing with Trump’s aggressiveness (unless shutting up and cowering counts as a strategy). Is the problem his debate preparation team? Is he uncooperative with his staff and the despair of his advisors? My guess is that Bush doesn’t want to be out there, and was talked into running by his family and various hangers-on.
I wonder if this is a bit like Ted Kennedy in the 1980 cycle. No, not the drinking. You have a legacy politician who is being pushed to run, and is giving multiple signs of genuine reluctance, and possible self-sabotage. At least Kennedy could tell himself that he was the sole representative of the more-liberal tendency within the Democratic Party. He was the only option for those Democrats who wanted higher spending, and a more dovish foreign policy than Jimmy Carter was offering. Rubio, Kasich, and Christie are all reasonable ideological substitutes for Bush.
I think that there is an opportunity in the Republican electorate for an “outsider” to assemble a large enough coalition to win the nomination from the “establishment.” Cruz is the best candidate to assemble that coalition. Cruz was very smart about how he set up his criticism of Rubio, and he is positioning himself to gain when and if Carson and Trump collapse in the polls.
But while there is room for an outsider, I don’t think there is room for an outsider who supports a combination of a flat tax and a VAT. That won’t fly with the working-class moderates who make up a large proportion of Trump’s supporters, and without those working-class moderates, it will be almost impossible assemble a large enough coalition to beat the “somewhat conservatives” and affluent moderates who are going to back whoever becomes the consensus establishment favorite.
Kasich would have a chance at this thing if he didn’t come across like he despised Republican voters. I imagine that even somewhat conservative voters are turned off by Kasich’s I’m-too-good-for-you vibe. I suppose the most liberal Republican identifiers (who affiliate with the Republican Party for ancestral or idiosyncratic reasons) might like Kasich’s schtick, but there aren’t nearly enough of them to win the nomination. He would do better to train more of his fire at Clinton and Obama.
Rand Paul made a play for his father’s old constituency. I generally disagree with him, but at least it gives him a reason to stay in the race.