After a much-criticized debate performance a few weeks ago, one GOP candidate needed a miracle Tuesday night. Jeb Bush's closing statement at the 4th Republican debate confirmed that no miracle had transpired; if anything, Bush was more muted than ever. After an evening of in which Bush at one point thanked Donald Trump for "allowing" him to speak, Bush gave a closing statement that focused on veterans needs, i.e. a subject no one could possibly attack him for, providing an unmemorable end to an equally unmemorable performance that did nothing to make Bush look more presidential or suggest that he's successfully resuscitating his campaign.
Following Bush's turn at the 3rd Republican debate on Oct. 28, critics questioned whether Bush's campaign was over right then and there. When Bush went after Marco Rubio for missing multiple senate votes during the campaign, Rubio neatly shut him down. Then there was that uncomfortable moment when, talking taxes, Bush promised, "You find a Democrat that’s for cutting taxes, cutting spending $10, I’ll give him a warm kiss." Yup, a warm kiss. After that debate, Bush admitted, "I'm not a performer. If you're looking for an entertainer in chief, I'm probably not the guy."
Bush again opened himself up to criticism a few day later when he launched a new campaign slogan, "Jeb can fix it," provoking a full day of jokes and memes on Twitter commenting on what Bush hasn't, can't, or really should fix.
Bush's closing statement at the 4th GOP debate, and his performance at the debate as a whole, showed no evidence that much has been fixed. As though he was hoping to avoid any criticism whatsoever, Bush played the debate as a whole very safe, and chose an even safer conclusion. Bush started by referencing military families, then went on:
They're called heroes. I don't think we need an agitator-in-chief or a divider-in-chief. We need a commander-in-chief that will rebuild our military and restore respect to our veterans by revamping and fixing a broken Veterans Administration. That's my pledge to you. I ask for your support. Thank you.
Similar to Jeb's closing statement at the 3rd GOP debate on Oct. 28, there's not much substance there. Who is going to argue that actually, no, we shouldn't better respect our veterans? But also, besides appealing to military voters, how did Bush feel this approach was really going to help him? No wonder Twitter was less than impressed:
So what happens now? Does Bush keep going or bow out? With the next Republican debate on Dec. 15 in Las Vegas, he has more time to prepare, but it's unclear if that will make a difference. Bush will have to decide if it's worth the possibility of fumbling or appearing meek on the national stage yet again. When you're running for president, what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.
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