Team Jeb Shows Its Sharp Elbows

Yesterday at Lunch Buffet I noted briefly that Crag Robinson, founder and editor of The Iowa Republican, a resource all political junkies have come to rely on in presidential years, suddenly went after Scott Walker with hammer and tongs for flip-flopping on immigration policy and ethanol subsidies. I observed that Robinson wasn’t the sort of guy a presidential candidate wanted as an enemy, and I did wonder to myself if ol’ Craig was sweet on some other specific candidate.

So last night WaPo’s Ed O’Keefe and Robert Costa reported that Team Jeb Bush was all over the place making the same attack on Walker:

It started with a subtle poke at Jeb Bush almost two months ago, when Scott Walker suggested that Republicans need “a new, fresh approach.” Since then, Walker has continued jabbing, casting himself as the “son of a preacher” — instead of, say, a president — and warning Republicans against “looking to the past.”

With each provocation amid Walker’s fast rise, the Bush camp has grown increasingly agitated — not just by the attacks but also by what they see as a lack of scrutiny of the Wisconsin governor’s record.

Bush supporters fired back on Tuesday, starting when Al Cardenas, a Miami-based lawyer and longtime Bush supporter, took to Twitter to attack Walker’s shifting positions: “Did u know S Walker was for path to citizenship. Now not? Did u know he was against ethanol subsidy, now he is for? Do u really know him?”

In an e-mail to The Washington Post, Bush ally Ana Navarro repeated the theme, suggesting Walker was starting to sound a bit like that most renowned of Republican flip-floppers, Mitt Romney.

“Running for president requires having the mettle to keep your boots on, not change into flip-flops when it starts getting hot,” Navarro said in an e-mail. “I think the flip-flop label hasn’t yet stuck to Walker because unlike Romney, until now he’s had a low profile nationally.”

Now maybe this is just a coincidence, or maybe Robinson saw the attacks on Walker and agreed with them without harboring any special affection for Jeb. But putting Craig aside, it is clear that all the pious talk from Jeb about running an “optimistic” campaign that didn’t rely on the disparagement of rivals was just that: talk. And if, God forbid, I were a Jeb booster, I’d be relieved. What’s the point of having a quadrillion dollars in the bank if you can’t use it to trash your opponents? It’s in no small part how Mitt Romney got himself nominated in 2012, and if there’s any clear path to the nomination for Jeb, it’s over the bodies of other candidates buried by toxic gold.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.