Once again, the media got it wrong. That big blimp circling out of control over Pennsylvania farmland this week? It wasn’t an Army experiment from Aberdeen Proving Ground, after all. It was the Jeb Bush campaign, leaking air as it made one final, desperate pass over a key battleground state before crashing and burning.
But Bush wasn’t the only loser in the latest GOP dust-up. Oddly enough, there were two big losers, before we even got to the candidates.
The first big loser was the American people. Consider: This is only the end of October. Yet we’ve already suffered through four presidential debates, three by Republican candidates and one by Democrats.
Second big loser? CNBC, which never should have been trusted with hosting a presidential debate. Any local television station could have done a better job.
The night’s big winner? Hands down, Marco Rubio. Young, articulate and smart as a whip, he always seemed the most likely to break out of the pack, and finally did. Wednesday night’s performance catapults Rubio into the top tier.
If Rubio had a great night, Donald Trump had an off night. Ben Carson had an even worse night. All those people who tuned in especially to get their first look at the candidate who recently soared to first place in the Iowa polls must have been scratching their heads and asking: Who? What? Why?
Yet all of the above fared better than Jeb Bush, for which Wednesday’s debate was, or should be, the end of the line. His campaign was hurting, anyway. Bush was never able to connect with voters. He quickly sank to single digits in the polls and was forced to cut staff salaries just last week.
But his big mistake came in challenging Rubio for missing so many votes in the Senate. When that exchange was over, Bush looked like a washed-up old boxer beat to a pulp by a rookie.
For a while, Jeb Bush was the establishment favorite. His campaign had everything going for it: experience, tons of money, big-name endorsements and universal name-recognition. In the end, all it lacked was a candidate.