We have a very convoluted system for electing our president, and particularly so within our party nominating contests. In some places we have caucuses that are followed by county and state conventions where delegates are selected to the two parties’ respective national conventions. In other places, we have primaries where delegates appear directly on the ballot. In these cases, it’s not just a matter of getting the candidate’s name on the ballot, you also have to field enough delegates to take advantage of the support you get from the voters. In Alabama, at least, Jeb Bush couldn’t meet this basic test.
One data point promoted by the Bush team as a show of organizational strength: Bush already is on the ballot in 13 states. But Ohio Governor John Kasich isn’t far behind, with his name on the ballot in nine states. First-term U.S. Senator Ted Cruz’s team said they’ve put his name on ballots in 17 states and territories.
In Alabama, one of the Bush campaign’s top targets in March, Bush has endorsements from a member of Congress, a handful of state legislators and statewide officials. Yet, in contrast with Donald Trump or Marco Rubio, Bush wasn’t able to find a full slate of delegates to run on the ballot by Friday’s deadline.
“It’s been hard to recruit people to run because of how his numbers have gone,” said Chris Brown, an Alabama Republican strategist who worked for the Florida Republican Party when Bush was governor.
This obviously undermines Jeb’s main arguments for his own candidacy. He’s supposed to be competent and experienced. His team is supposed to know what it is doing and have a shot at matching the team the Clintons will bring to the general election contest. He’s supposed to have enough establishment support and resources to not have to worry about things like ballot access that can be a real challenge to cash-strapped and little-known candidates.
And, yet, even in a deep red state where he’s got significant establishment support, he couldn’t accomplish the simple job of finding a couple of handfuls of people to serve as his delegates.
It’s almost sad, really.