Among the many dramas of Wednesday's third Republican debate, perhaps the most interesting is the battle between Jeb Bush and his one-time protege Marco Rubio. The two men have a history but they are very different political animals: Jeb is a large, lumbering creature, a veritable dinosaur compared to Rubio, the small mammal capable of thriving amid disaster.
Jeb’s lack of agility can be seen in the fact that he hasn’t adjusted his campaign at all to the giant asteroid that is Donald Trump. Trump has changed the dynamics of the race but Jeb is still working from the strategy his team crafted months ago, one that sees Rubio as the main challenge, the candidate that has to be taken out so the establishment has no option but to back Jeb.
Jeb tried to go after Rubio, attacking him for being an AWOL senator who misses votes. But he did it in such a clumsy way Rubio easily got the better of him. This line of attack has been used before—and Jeb had already talked about it in interviews—so Rubio was well prepared and deftly alluded to the voting record of John McCain, who Jeb had supported in 2004.
Rubio made quick work of Jeb, leaving himself as the master of the exchange. If I were part of the GOP donor class and wanted an establishment candidate to forestall the nightmare of Trump being the party’s figurehead, I’d be looking to give my money to Rubio tonight. This might have been Jeb’s Waterloo, the moment when he lost everything once and for all.