The coming endorsement from Jeb! Bush

The Republican presidential field will start to slim down after tonight’s Iowa caucuses and next week’s New Hampshire primary. Over the next two weeks, the would-be contenders will start dropping out and throwing their support behind a former opponent.

How’s that going to work when it’s Jeb Bush’s turn?

Fundraising troubles combined with his respect for the office mean that, barring a stunning New Hampshire comeback, the former nominal frontrunner will be out sooner rather than later. It’s a stunning fall based on the national media coverage of his campaign, but unsurprising to observers who saw no natural path to the nomination for Bush in what was a deep, accomplished, and grassroots-friendly Republican field.

And it means there’s an endorsement coming up. Who wants it?

Other candidates have to be cringing. As they climb over each other to shed the dreaded “establishment” label, what could be worse than having to share the stage with – and get glowing compliments from – an inside-the-beltway brand name like Bush?

Fellow Floridian Marco Rubio is the most likely recipient of Bush’s blessing. After weeks of Bush-aligned super PAC attacks on Rubio, won’t that press conference be awkward? One question his attacks on Rubio’s Senate attendance or immigration stance, Bush would descend into several minutes of stammering, uncomfortable double-speak about “leadership” and “accomplishment.”

What will it be like if Bush opts for Ted Cruz? One can only imagine Cruz forcing an uneasy smile and awkward handshake, all the while worrying about his grassroots support as the poster child for policitcal inside baseball extolled Cruz’s Senate experience in Washington, D.C. But at least Cruz would feign grace; should Bush choose Rand Paul he might find himself getting into an arcane policy debate with the Kentucky Senator during the endorsement announcement. Neither one of those guys seem like they’re okay losing an argument.

Naturally, Donald Trump will take any endorsement, so he’d have no problem sharing the stage with Bush. Bush, on the other hand, might look like a hostage telling a video cameras through clenched teeth that his captors are treating him very very well. Naturally, Trump would praise Bush, speak reverently about the Bush family, and avow his respect for their service.

Then, for old time’s sake, he’d give Jeb a good noogie.

Clinton’s gift to Rubio keeps giving

Friend of the Program Matt Lewis said Marco Rubio owed Hillary Clinton a thank you note for announcing her candidacy the day before the Florida Senator threw his hat into the ring. The low-key Clinton announcement underscored Rubio’s forward-looking message without overshadowing it.

When word leaked that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to announce her candidacy on Sunday — one day prior to Sen. Marco’s scheduled announcement — the conventional wisdom seemed to be that she might overshadow him. Instead, she turned out to be the perfect foil… “Just yesterday,” Rubio said, “a leader from yesterday began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

He’s definitely right, but there’s more than just the contrast with Clinton making the speech more colorful. More than any other Republican contender so far, Rubio got to talk about Republicans versus Democrats. Clinton was in the news during his announcement. When his Senate colleagues Ted Cruz and Rand Paul announced in the previous weeks, the natural question (and the tone of the ensuing coverage) was where they fit in the Republican primary field.

That let Rubio elevate his rhetoric a bit at the outset. For a little while, he can position himself as the adult among the rabble, while the others carve up intra-party factions with labels like “tea party” or “libertarian.”

It may not last, but it’s a heck of a way to start.