Jeb Goes South, Perhaps In More Ways Than One

So after a meh performance in the CNN debate, and with Matt Bai telling the whole world the Establishment’s on the edge of dumping him, the Great White Hope of the donor class and the political science community (just teasing you, just teasing you!) heads South, where he hopes to compete in some key primaries unless he finishes fifth in New Hampshire and has to join Phil Gramm in the Hall of Shame for presidential candidates with a whole lot more money than votes.

Today Jeb’s joining nine other candidates (overshadowed once again by Donald Trump, who canceled his appearance supposedly because he needs to go close a deal somewhere, though some suspect he wants to avoid questioning on the little Islamaphobia event that occurred at one of his rallies yesterday) in South Carolina this afternoon at a forum hosted by Heritage Action, the influential right-wing enforcer and adjunct to the Heritage Foundation. I’m assuming the event is in the Palmetto State partially because it’s an early primary state but mostly as a tribute to Heritage president Jim DeMint, who is co-hosting the forum with Nikki Haley. Since he didn’t get around to it on Wednesday night, you’d guess Scott Walker will finally talk about his new Power to the People union-busting initiative in the world’s most congenial venue maybe this side of Beijing.

Tomorrow Jeb traverses the 95 miles from Greenville, SC to Athens, GA to take in the Georgia-South Carolina football game–a game I was once planning to attend in person, but now that I’m not, I’m happy I won’t have to deal with the extra traffic his security detail will create.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein offers Team Jeb some advice on getting through this game without offending too many people, a process that’s made trickier by the fact that he was Governor of Florida for some of the many years that current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was tormenting the Georgia Bulldogs from his perch at the University of Florida.

Jeb Bush will have to walk a thin line when he heads to Athens on Saturday to campaign before the annual gridiron matchup between Georgia and South Carolina. And just who the former Florida governor will root for may be one of the tougher questions he gets.

Will he don the red and black of the Georgia faithful? Will he sport a shiny visor, the favored headgear of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier? Or will he fall somewhere in between, perhaps favoring a nice neutral shade of gray?

South Carolina is an early-voting state that Bush has crisscrossed trying to curry favor. But he’s also visited Georgia a half-dozen or so times in the past year — downing a Frosted Orange at the Varsity and hanging out with Ludacris under the Gold Dome — ahead of this state’s March 1 primary.

Local Republicans gave Bush some more advice:

Bush, a University of Texas graduate, will most likely try to appeal to both sides. If he goes that route, Republican strategist Brian Robinson came up with a handy list of how he can appeal to UGA’s Republicans without offending fans of South Carolina or his home base of Florida.

Among them: Point out that UGA has a tight end named Jeb, highlight the power of the Southeastern Conference and offer Georgia standout Nick Chubb a chance to be his Polk County campaign chairman.

As to what not to say, Robinson also had some ideas:

* I used to golf with Steve Spurrier when he was coach at Florida. Great guy.

* There’s too much inbreeding in the Uga line.”

* Sir, I think you’ve had enough to drink.”

Yuk Yuk.

I don’t know if Bush is going to be introduced to the 92,000 fans attending the game, but even in Georgia, I doubt he’ll get the reception gained by a political celebrity at a game I witnessed way back in the day. It was Prince Charles (before his marriage to Diana), who came out on the field at half-time, with the Georgia faithful dutifully chanting: “Damn Good Prince! Damn Good Prince!”

Good times.

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.