In some respects, this thing will not die.
Jeb Bush started his campaign
Jeb Bush was supposed to be the front-runner right now. Jeb Bush was supposed to rally the Republican base and inspire the Establishment.
Instead, the calls for Jeb to stop campaigning increase by the day. Even Far Right blogs are in "countdown to corpse" mode.
How bad is it getting?
Jeb's campaign spent millions in an ad push in New Hampshire. The Politico reports that after $4.8 million spent in-state and taking up 60 percent of ad time on television, Jeb's polling numbers there dropped from 9 percent to 8.7 percent.
Money is not buying votes like it used to.
How bad is it really getting?
Donald Trump, savoring the safe spot of a polling lead across the board, just attacked Jeb's campaign position about how brother George W. "kept us safe" during a TV interview:
..."When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time," Trump said on Bloomberg TV.
Bloomberg anchor Stephanie Ruhle interjected, "Hold on, you can't blame George Bush for that," before Trump stood by his comments.
"He was president, OK? ... Blame him, or don't blame him, but he was president. The World Trade Center came down during his reign," Trump said...
Jeb tried to punch back, arguing that Dubya did "keep us safe." It may yet hurt Trump among the primary voters, but so far nothing has put a dent in Trump's push. And it doesn't look like Jeb is convincing a lot of folks of that whole "safe" thing. If Trump can successfully convince enough GOP primary voters that Jeb's narrative over 9/11 is wrong... Jeb has nothing left to sell. He won't even be able to use his own family as a crutch or marketing point.
Over the last two weeks, I've been fighting with myself with the urge to write a "What If" scenario where "What if Jeb wins the nomination?" I keep tripping over it because the scenario only works one way: when Trump implodes - it's still a likelihood - AND (this is important) if Jeb can convince enough primary voters to put him back into double-digit polling numbers.
It's that last part after the AND that I can't reconcile to reality. It just does not look like Jeb is winning over the base.
They're not impressed anymore. It used to be the front-runner would rack up all the endorsements and the campaign funding and the primary voters would fall into line and back the "right" guy because all the narrative and political muscle is behind him. That's changed. The Republican base has found a horse to back that doesn't need the Establishment and can pander to them just as well as the mainstream candidate(s).
The only sane reason for Jeb to stay in this race is the hope - which is growing more doubtful the closer we get to the real primary season - that when Trump is expected to implode - or the Republican Establishment force him to implode - someone credible in the party has to be there to pick up the pieces and win the nomination next July.
But even that is looking less likely. If Trump goes, there's still Ben Carson sitting there in the Number Two slot as the next Amateur Candidate. There's still Carly Fiorina in the mix as the third Amateur. And then there's Marco Rubio, either polling even or ahead of Jeb as the most "credible" candidate the primary voters would like.
All the sane reasons aren't there for Jeb. Only the insane reasons are left.
Jeb is now running on pride. Having seen his father become President... Having his rival older brother become President... Jeb wants his turn in the big chair. That's all he's got to motivate him. Actually winning no longer seems possible. Quitting now would be a terrible admission of failure coming from a man - from a family - who can never admit it.
He's also likely convinced himself he's the only hope the Republican Party has of stopping Trump before his nativist bull-in-a-chinashop routine wrecks everything for the party brand. He's not: he's really one of several opportunists - Rubio, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich - waiting for the amateur trio of Trump/Carson/Fiorina to lose their audiences, waiting for a miracle to wash the usurpers into the sea.
An early advantage he had - the fund-raising - might be slowing up and does nothing against a deep-pocket candidate like Trump, but he does have enough money on hand to crawl along into the primary rounds. Given his lousy performance stirring up supporters to vote, however, Jeb may not see enough delegates distributed to him to force a brokered convention. Right now, there's no way he can secure the Winner-Take-All states like his home state of Florida that could clinch the delegate count.
We are bearing witness to the first of its kind: the Zombie campaign. A political operation promoting an unliked and unhappy candidate all the way to a Finish line that campaign has no hope of reaching first. It's already being declared dead before the starting pistol goes off, yet the person(s) behind it are either deluded or desperate to think the campaign can win.
We've had long campaigns before go to the wire, but those were races between candidates who still had a hope. The race between Obama and Hillary in 2008 comes to mind. There, the race did indeed go back and forth until June, when the superdelegate count turned for Obama.
This is not the same situation. Trump right now looks unbeatable and if he keeps a double-digit lead on Jeb in particular well into January he can well win the nomination (insert scream of terror here). That poll I linked to: right now Trump is polling 24 percent, Jeb is at 8 percent. TRUMP IS TRIPLE THE COUNT on Jeb. If Trump even stays about 20 percent heading into January 2016, Dear GOD there is no sign Jeb can catch up.
We can't really call the other candidates zombies just yet. None of them were expected to be front-runners in 2016. Many of them - Graham, Jindal, Paul, Christie, Santorum, the other non-percenters - are just as easily expected to drop out. It's just none of the remaining likely names - Rubio, Cruz, Huckabee, Kasich - are campaigning with serious and open wounds the way Jeb has. Well, Huckabee keeps dropping the most offensive crap outside of Trump's press releases: but the Huckster wasn't expected to make it to Cleveland anyway.
I doubt Jeb will drop out - not until it's clear he can't win - and even then he'll try something - his people or backers will try something - to rig the rules again to favor him. The only thing I can see is him trying to rig the balloting somehow: However, that would mean rigging the polls first so that there's no discrepancy to make people question the results. And if Jeb hasn't rigged the polling by now, I can't see how he can rig the ballots.
So we're stuck, because he's now a zombie running a dead campaign. Wasting all that Citizens United money. Wasting ad space and people's attention spans.
Removing Trump is not going to change this. Fighting Rubio for more funding is not going to change this. Everyone out there is immune to Zombie Jeb's bite.
It'd be funny if it weren't so scary in a multitude of ways.
Update: I am not the only one making the Zombie Jeb Bush comparison.