Jeb Bush finished a little better than polls predicted in New Hampshire last night and his campaign has issued marching orders for South Carolina: knock out John Kasich and Marco Rubio.
In an internal memo circulated late Tuesday evening, the campaign distributed talking points to top campaign aides and surrogates, highlighting lines of attack they plan to take against both candidates.
The memo suggests that Kasich, who campaigned extensively in New Hampshire, does not have a realistic path to winning the Republican nomination.
“Governor Kasich has little to no chance in South Carolina, and does not have a national organization that can compete,” the memo says. “Kasich has consistently supported gutting the military and has no viable path in the Palmetto State.”
The memo also outlines hard-hitting avenues of attack against Rubio, who for months has been in Bush’s crosshairs: “Senator Rubio has lost momentum and has been exposed as completely unprepared to be president,” it says, repeating an argument that Bush has used frequently against Rubio.
It adds: “Rubio has demonstrated no respect for the nomination process and expects this to be a coronation.”
Part of this isn't exactly news. We reported back in October that the Bush campaign and his super PAC had targeted Rubio. The idea being that Rubio was the single biggest threat to Jeb Bush's continued viability and that Rubio supporters were more likely to gravitate to Bush than any other candidate. And the campaign has followed that strategy in Iowa... where it didn't work... and in New Hampshire... where eked out a narrow victory over Rubio.
The marching orders on Kasich are really pro forma. The Bush campaign wants to look like it is on the offensive and they have to throw Kasich in to make the strategy seem bigger and newer than "get Rubio" and because Kasich breezed into second place last night. Kasich is polling at what could statistically be zero percent in South Carolina and what the Bush campaign wants is to staunch any momentum in his direction. You can expect to hear stuff like this:
Kasich has s long record of balancing the budget, reforming welfare, strengthening defense. Anyone who says differently is wrong
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) February 10, 2016
But New Hampshire is all there is for Kasich.
By ignoring Trump and Cruz, in fact, Jeb doesn't even consider them a GOP candidates:
"Jeb also did well because he remains the only GOP candidate willing to take on Donald Trump and willing to stand up for conservative values."
This strategy could easily slide him into third place.
For Bush, this is a race against time. His campaign is on the verge of going broke. It is arguable whether his New Hampshire showing is going to bring him the hard money that he needs to survive. A third place finish in South Carolina would probably give him a new lease on life. Fourth place there ends his campaign.