By Lynn R. Mitchell
— Ken McIntyre (@KenMac55) November 11, 2015
— Keith Fernandez (@keifer24) November 11, 2015
As seen in the tweets above, Jeb Bush brought it to the debate stage Tuesday night with his sizable arsenal of knowledge and experience on issues concerning the economy, energy, the Veterans Administration, and other concerns of Americans. From his very first response, it was obvious he was on, and ready to face not only his opponents but to hit the trail for the weeks that lay ahead leading to the 2016 presidential primaries.
The New York Times was very impressed with his performance, noting (see A nimbler Jeb Bush turns feisty. But is it enough?):
This was a hungrier Jeb Bush.
Donald J. Trump had just finished a breezy, boastful and hard-to-follow explanation of how he would take on the Islamic State, tossing in a curiously admiring aside about Vladimir V. Putin’s performance on television.
Suddenly a voice rose from his right.
“Donald is wrong,” said Mr. Bush, uncharacteristically interjecting before the debate moderators could move on.
Mr. Bush said it again, more emphatically. “He is absolutely wrong on this.”
Mr. Trump had blithely suggested that he would happily stand aside and let others, such as Mr. Putin, Russia’s president, sort out the messy Middle East.
Mr. Bush looked into the camera and did what he has long resisted: He ridiculed Mr. Trump as naïve and unsophisticated.
“I mean, that’s like a board game,” said Mr. Bush, theatrically waving his hand as if he were moving chess pieces. “That’s like playing Monopoly or something.”
“That,” he added, as the crowd erupted into applause, “is not how the real world works.”
On Tuesday night, Mr. Bush, whose chronic struggles on the debate stage have unnerved his supporters and dragged down his standing in the polls, was a feistier and more assertive combatant, demanding more time from moderators, offering flashes of improvised humor and delivering crisper answers than he has in the past.
The Times went on to add:
But in contrast to previous debates, Mr. Bush generated a handful of memorable lines and moments, and seemed less daunted by Mr. Trump, the resident bully in each of the party’s confrontations so far.
At one point, Mr. Bush tartly thanked Mr. Trump for allowing him a chance to participate in a verbal rumpus.
“Thank you, Donald, for allowing me to speak at the debate,” he said. “That’s really nice of you. Really appreciate that. What a generous man you are.”
He repeatedly mocked Mr. Trump for what he said were pie-in-the-sky policy plans that could not possibly work and would play into Democratic plans to cast Republicans as the enemy of minority voters. After Mr. Trump reiterated his support for deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, Mr. Bush looked exasperated.
“They’re doing high-fives in the Clinton campaign right now,” he said. “The way you win the presidency is to have practical plans.”
Mr. Bush swallowed his long-held distaste for sound bites and managed to fire off a few of them. Asked which regulations he would cut to improve the economy, Mr. Bush pivoted, turning instead to a claim by Hillary Rodham Clinton that President Obama’s economic record should earn an A grade. He then lobbed a practiced-sounding barb.
“Really?” Mr. Bush asked. He ticked off a series of grim figures and wondered how Mrs. Clinton could say they were worthy of such a high grade.
“It may be the best that Hillary Clinton can do,” Mr. Bush said, “but it’s not the best America can do.”
Even Erick Erickson over at Red State, who has not been easy on Govenror Bush during this process, liked what he saw (see Jeb Bush has had a debate come back):
Jeb Bush has had a good debate performance tonight. While I think his attempts at humor came off poorly, he really did a good job. He came across as serious, but likeable. He did not try to throw half-hearted punches. He held his own. He stood up to Trump, though Trump made him back down once. He was reaffirmed by Carly Fiorina on foreign policy.
On Facebook, Republican consultant Ed Rollins was reassured. “Jeb had his best night of the debates,” he wrote.
No other candidate has provided a more detailed group of policy proposals than Governor Bush, and his knowledge of those subjects was obvious during the debate and beyond. Reform the Veterans Administration and health care. Reform yet protect Social Security and Medicare. Enact stronger cybersecurity laws. Overhaul the U.S. tax code. Lower taxes.
He has a plan to secure our borders in a commonsense manner, even writing a book about it with Clint Bolick. In Immigration Wars, published in 2013, he proposed a variety of ways to strengthen America’s immigration policy. Details are on the website for that as well as every other policy he has presented and discussed.
This man sat before a large group of supporters in Bristol, Virginia, two months ago and easily discussed all these issues and more. His unease at handling a debate should not disqualify him from governing when he is possibly the most knowledgeable candidate on that stage and certainly in the top three.
In Bristol, he explained his plan on how to grow the economy by four percent, something he accomplished as governor of Florida … how to cut taxes like the $19 billion in tax cuts in Florida … create new jobs like the 1.3 million in Florida. His leadership in Florida led to the state’s first-ever AAA bond rating. Florida was the first state to enact a statewide voucher program, and they led in education reforms. He is for common sense while looking at federal land management in the Western part of the United States.
Jeb Bush gained ground and strength from Tuesday’s debate. He may not have been the flashiest, the angriest, or the loudest, but he went armed with the facts and prepared to present and defend them. He accomplished what he set out to do. My belief is that he is on an upward trend as we go into the next debates — there is one planned each month now through next spring — and that his message will resonate with voters.
Update #1: Former Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor called Jeb the serious one in the room (see Jeb ‘clearly the serious candidate in the room’):
“Jeb clearly was prepared. He was the one most focused on identifying where conservative policies play out and benefit working people of this country. And was prepared to take on Hillary and did so last night more so than anybody.”
Bush believes in commonsense conservative policy, Cantor continued. … “I think that Jeb’s clearly focused on winning this campaign, will win this campaign and I think his position on immigration is where most Republicans are and certainly most of the country is,” said Cantor. “You can’t sit here and assume that 11 million people are somehow going to get rounded up and deported. Jeb talked about ripping apart families and that we don’t want to do that.”The debate also allowed Bush to put speculation to rest that he will be dropping out of the race, said Cantor.
Update #2: And yet another confirmation that Jeb held his own Tuesday night (see Jeb Bush survives debate with steady performance):
A steadfast performance by Jeb Bush in Tuesday’s Republican debate has halted the sense of desperation around his U.S. presidential campaign….
… the most relieved candidate after the two-hour encounter inside the Milwaukee Theatre was Bush, the former Florida governor who was outclassed in the three previous debates and has suffered an erosion of support from Republican voters and a drop-off in financial donations.
Trump … gave Bush an opening when he said it was okay with him if Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS” in Syria and Iraq, a reference to Islamic State militants in the two Middle East countries.
Bush, who mostly steered clear of attacking his rivals after previous attempts had fallen flat, quickly interjected.
“We’re not going to be the world’s policemen, but we sure as heck better be the world’s leader,” Bush said, saying Trump’s views of Putin and his policies in Syria were “like a board game. That’s like playing Monopoly or something. That’s not how the real world works.”
Update #3: Reuters UK picked up on the same (see Steady debate performance banishes gloom for U.S. Republican Jeb Bush):
“I thought the debate went well, and I had a good debate because I got to talk about things with a little substance instead of the cute one-liners,” Bush said Wednesday morning on Fox News. In the same appearance, Bush announced he had received the endorsement of former Republican senator and one-time presidential nominee Bob Dole.
The performance sent waves of excitement through Bush’s donor base.
“He was much improved from the prior debate and just demonstrated that Jeb is a serious candidate with the leadership skills and the experience,” said Eric Cantor, the former Republican House Majority Leader who is raising funds for Bush. “I think coming out of that debate, Jeb is very well poised to really gain some momentum.”
Bush supporters were encouraged that he now has a month until the next debate, giving him time to work the campaign trail.
“You’re getting away from the press narrative at a debate and instead focusing on reality on the ground,” Cantor, who was defeated in a primary in 2014 and now works for investment bank Moelis. “Jeb has put together one of his best teams there is in Iowa.”
Bush moved to quickly hit the campaign trail, holding three events in Iowa on Wednesday.
Update #4: Ed O’Keefe in the Washington Post agreed that Jeb had a good night (see Jeb Bush had a good night. But he still needs better ones):
Jeb Bush did something Tuesday night that he’s not done before on a presidential debate stage: He butted in.
“It’s my turn,” he told Ohio Gov. John Kasich as moderators attempted to ask him a question.
“I got about four minutes in the last debate,” he added. “I’m going to get my question right now.”
The former Florida governor — previously averse to the advice of media trainers and the need to speak in soundbites — delivered a stronger performance in the fourth Republican presidential debate. He fought more aggressively for air time. He used more personal anecdotes. He lightly mocked front-runner Donald Trump. And he relentlessly criticized President Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton — something few other candidates bothered to do.
After spending time in recent days with veteran GOP media trainer Jon Kraushar to sharpen his delivery, Bush associates were visibly relieved by the results, believing that he had pulled himself back from the edge.
Campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday, Bush conceded that the professional advice helped. Kraushar, he said, “brought some logic to being able to say what you think. Just don’t get tripped up with the questions.”
But he laughed off suggestions that Kraushar is also helping remake his image: “He’s certainly not an image-maker, you’re looking at him, man,” he said looking down at his blazer and jeans.
And he admitted that he’s still adjusting to norms of modern-day debating.
Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush supporter, provided a remarkably blunt assessment of his friend’s performance: “Two things happened: He applied the tourniquet and applied it successfully. And number two, he gave the reassurance to the donors, the activists and all the folks involved in the campaign, reassured them that they made the right choice to begin with and re-energized them.”
Bush benefited from debate rules that permitted candidates up to 90 seconds to respond to questions. The change gave Bush breathing room to talk more expansively, like he does at his free-wheeling town hall meetings.
“I think we need to repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress, every one of them. And start over,” he said when asked about ways to accelerate economic growth.
Buoyed by loud applause, Bush name-checked Net Neutrality, the Clean Power Act and the Waters of the United States Act — policies that many viewers probably hadn’t heard of but that Bush regularly criticizes on the campaign trail.
Finally. Candidates were allowed to actually add substance to their answers with 90 seconds — 1.5 minutes — as opposed to 30 seconds. Yet ninety seconds still is not enough to fully explain the complex issues that a president faces.