His face is leaner, his focus intense. John Ellis Bush — now known as Jeb! in his campaign outreach — makes his bid for president Monday afternoon on his home turf in Florida. There’s a new campaign logo, a straightforward video and public vows that while he is a Bush through and through, his emerging policies are sound, his political acumen authentic.
“What we need is new leadership that takes conservative principles and applies them so that people can rise up. America’s best days are in front of us, and we are going to lead the world,” Mr. Bush says in his lead-up to the mid-afternoon announcement.
As he has for many months, Mr. Bush leads the most current presidential poll. A Fox News survey of GOP primary voters finds him tied in first place with Gov. Scott Walker (both garner 12 percent of the vote), followed by Ben Carson with 11 percent and Sens. Rand Paul (9 percent) and Ted Cruz (8 percent), rounding out the top five.
Unlike Hillary Rodham Clinton’s backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, Mr. Bush has chosen to make his debut at a Miami college in an Cuban-American neighborhood, and has been labeled the “noncandidate candidate’ by the Miami Herald. The rest of the press, meanwhile, has already constructed their own backdrop and script for his role. Among the headlines of the last 48 hours:
“Jeb Bush works to recover from a shaky start” (New York Times); “Will his official White House bid boost a lackluster campaign?” (Christian Science Monitor); “Is Jeb Bush’s campaign in Pickett’s charge mode?” (Bloomberg); “Jeb Bush navigates long family legacy in 2016 bid” (Wall Street Journal); and “Jeb Bush’s 2016 launch strategy: Be the tortoise, not the hare” (CNN).
But if he’s a tortoise, Mr. Bush is proving to be a nimble one. He’ll be in New Hampshire by Tuesday and South Carolina by Thursday.
F — BUT NOT FOR FABULOUS
From our “That’s a Shame” desk comes news from pollster John Zogby that President Obama has more or less had his lousiest week on record. “For a president trying to nail down his legacy, this week couldn’t have gone worse, or been more embarrassing, for Barack Obama,” says Mr. Zogby
“For starters, his statement early in the week that his administration has no strategy to fight ISLAMIC STATE came out clumsily. Then his announcement of 450 new troop advisers seemed weak to his GOP critics and too much like mission creep to Democrats. Unemployment applications ticked up a bit and his signature domestic legislation may get a massive blow by the Supreme Court very soon,” Mr. Zogby says.
“But this week is mainly about the Trade Promotion Authority which faced a big, very close vote in the House. Sensing defeat, Mr. Obama went to Capitol Hill to try to rally some Democratic support but he was dissed by both the leadership and the rank-and-file. While he lost the first round, the White House is still optimistic it might pass next week,” the pollster continues.
“But the president has lost his base and it looks like Democrats are emboldened to run away from him again — as they did in 2014. If TPA loses, it will redefine the Democratic Party for years. The president’s legacy is at stake.”
And his grade for Mr. Obama: “A very rare F.”
A big speech, a patriotic backdrop, plenty of distractions and an immediate departure for the Iowa heartland — followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina and California. That was Hillary Clinton‘s modus operandi on Saturday following Phase One of her campaign reset. And this was only Day One.
“Hillary Clinton wants a do-over. Again. When push comes to shove, this is classic Hillary Clinton — a delusional elitist who shirks common protocol because she thinks she is entitled to her White House bid,” says Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerica, a grass-roots organization supporting traditional American values.
“She has an alphabet soup of scandals for which Americans and the media are demanding answers, and yet she continues to force-feed the country her self-absorbed presidential candidacy. It truly doesn’t get more pompous than Hillary Clinton, the Marie Antoinette of American politics,” Mr. Bozell concludes.
SOME TELLING TIMING
Tough job, but somebody had to do it. Researchers at the Republican National Committee sat through Hillary Clinton‘s aforementioned speech with their stop watches poised, parsing out what subjects she gave more time to. Red-meat policy was a rare thing. The GOP analysts found the candidate devoted less than 5 percent of her 45-minute speech to foreign policy — just over two minutes total.
Mrs. Clinton spent 54 seconds on her experience as secretary of state, and 53 seconds addressing ways to keep American safe from threats like the Islamic State, Russia and China. She spent 11 seconds about her talk discussing her work with the Senate Armed Services Committee and 6 seconds on the nuclear START treaty.
Mrs. Clinton devoted more than four minutes to attacking Republicans — three minutes, 10 seconds attacking the GOP on taxes, the environment, health care and immigration. She attacked the GOP on economic and fiscal policies and voting rights for another 55 seconds.
“What difference, at this point, does it make? The Clinton machine rumbles on,” quip the weary analysts.
Americans have lived with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for 12 years, essentially. Time tends to alter perceptions. “Amid a security situation in Iraq and Afghanistan that continues to be contentious, a smaller share of Americans now than last year view the conflict in Afghanistan or the Iraq war as a mistake,” writes Andrew Dugan, a Gallup analyst.
The pollster finds that a ‘slim majority” — 51 percent — now say Iraq was a mistake, down 6 percentage points in a year. Forty-two percent say Afghanistan was a mistake, also down 6 percentage points in a year. Most Republicans have been consistent in their sentiments about the wars; about 30 percent say the conflicts were a mistake, with little variation over the years. Opinion is shifting elsewhere, however.
“While Republicans remain the political group least likely to express regret for the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, a slight change in Democrats’ and independents’ views is why a lower proportion of the country now sees either conflict as a mistake. Compared with last year, Democrats are 7 points less likely to see Iraq as a mistake and 8 points less likely to see Afghanistan as a mistake. Independents saw similar movement on these questions,” Mr. Dugan says.
POLL DU JOUR
• 79 percent of U.S. voters approve of U.S. airstrikes against “Islamic extremists”: 88 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents and 72 percent of Democrats agree.
• 71 percent overall favor drone strikes against Islamic extremists: 80 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats agree.
• 68 percent overall approve increasing U.S. airstrikes: 81 percent of Republicans, 64 percent of independents and 58 percent of Democrats agree.
• 50 percent overall favor sending a limited number of U.S. ground troops to Iraq and Syria: 61 percent of Republicans, 45 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats agree.
• 43 percent overall favor providing weapons to nations fighting Islamic extremists: 45 percent of Republicans, 38 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats agree.
• 37 percent overall favor sending a “significant number” of troops to Iraq and Syria: 50 percent of Republicans, 33 percent of independents and 27 percent of Democrats agree.
Source: A Fox News poll of 1,006 registered U.S. voters conducted May 31 — June 2 and released Friday.
• Small talk, big arguments to email@example.com.