Republican presidential candidate and leading polling blip Jeb Bush took a bold stand against Donald Trump on Tuesday, telling Chuck Todd that there’s no way the runaway frontrunner will be the Republican nominee. It’s the same dodge that Bush has used repeatedly to avoid saying whether or not he would support Donald Trump if he wins the nomination. That might be a little bit more comforting if Jeb himself could believe that Jeb is going to win.
Unfortunately for Jeb, Chuck was in a follow-up kind of mood today, and wouldn’t quite let him get away with that evasion. When pressed, Jeb conceded that he “absolutely” would support the GOP nominee no matter what, but vowed to continue clicking the heels of his slippers together and saying “Donald Trump won’t be the nominee!”:
Todd: Well, it doesn’t sound like you can support him if he’s the nominee, why not say it?
Jeb!: Because it’s not going to happen. He’s not going to be the nominee. I will support the Republican nominee and I’m working hard to make sure I’m it.
Todd: So you will support the Republican nominee no matter what the voters decide?
Jeb!: Absolutely. It’s not going to be Donald Trump.
If the denunciations of Trump’s latest insane (and insanely popular with Republicans) move rang a little hollow before, consider that not only is Jeb willing to vote for the guy who wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States. he’s also the guy who, not two weeks ago, proposed his own religious test on people entering the U.S.:
Complicating Bush’s prediction greatly is the fact that while Trump is far in the lead, even the former Florida governor is finding it harder and harder to keep a straight face about his own chances, and so are mainstream media figures. In an interview with This Week‘s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, that sad reality was on comical display, as the host couldn’t hold back an amused exclamation when Bush insisted that his message is working:
BUSH: He’s just a gifted politician that is appealing to people’s anger and frustration that is quite legitimate. Look, Washington is broken. And the good news is that I have a proven record in Tallahassee to disrupt the old order there and I can tell that story and I do it each and every day all across the early primary and caucus states. And it’s working. And so I have —
STEPHANOPOULOS: It’s working?!?
BUSH: It’s working. George, come on out with me. It’s working. And it’s going to show — it’ll show at the time that it matters, which is February 1st in Iowa and New Hampshire beyond that. We’re making good, steady progress.
That’s as close as I’ve ever seen a political host come to doing an actual spit-take on camera, and if Bush’s insistence that it is indeed working seemed unconvincing, it’s because it doesn’t even seem to have convinced him. Later in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked Bush flat-out if he can win in the early states:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you get to March if you don’t win one of those first three, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina?
BUSH: Don’t forget Nevada.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Nevada?
BUSH: Yes. I think I can. But I’m going to do well in those.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to win?
BUSH: I’m going to work as hard as I can and I think that people are going to be drawn to our message that is more hopeful and optimistic and by a messenger that actually can do the things that he says he wants to do.
I’m not sure what my favorite part of that is, but I think it’s Jeb reminding George of yet another state he’s going to lose badly in.
Jeb’s response to Todd at least has the virtue of a modicum of honesty, because when he and the rest of the field are brushing the sand out of their faces in March, there won’t be one of them who commits the politically suicidal move of supporting Hillary Clinton, or standing aside. While Donald Trump is the face of the Republican Party’s ugly id, Jeb is the face of its cowardly soul.