Jeb Bush’s appearance at a high-profile South Carolina GOP event could have elevated his position at a time when established party leaders are hoping for an experienced (and more predictable) nominee.
Did an exasperated statement do the opposite for the former Florida governor?
“No,” says longtime national Republican strategist Chip Felkel from Greenville, South Carolina.
“I think it’s overblown. He just said what everybody else is saying. I think his campaign is getting more heavily scrutinized–may be justified in terms of their earlier numbers that they raised–but I almost feel like if it’s a slow news day then let’s pick a fight between Trump and Bush, or Trump and Carson now.”
Felkel and other insiders doubt Trump’s ability to be elected in November of 2016– while an AP poll indicates the base disagrees. However, a majority (six in 10) poll respondents said Gov. Bush has experience and electability.
“The problem is right now is that you have very substantive candidates, but the most of the people apparently being polled are not interested in the substance, they’re are just angry. But anger doesn’t necessarily win, ” he says.
Felkel spoke with Ashley Byrd about how the GOP field is playing in South Carolina:
Byrd: With Trump’s in-party polling high in South Carolina, do established party leaders in the state accept that he will be their candidate?
Felkel: Not yet. I don’t think they are going to accept that anytime soon because I think most of the party leadership, and the business community that supports Republican candidates traditionally, realize that from a a general election standpoint that is extremely risky.
Byrd: We see Iowa playing out. Where is the candidate for the South going forward?
Felkel: The party leadership, the donor folks in South Carolina don’t necessarily see Trump as the answer to winning the White House. You’ve got to give him credit for where he is, you have to see where he and (Ben) Carson go after each other. How does Trump respond to not leading in a poll that was out today. So far it looks like polls only matter when he’s leading. Can he handle being in second place?
As it relates back to Bush or Rubio (Florida Sen. Marco Rubio) or Kasich (Ohio Gov. John Kasich), who is trying to develop a presence here, is there a more established candidate that people will fall back to? Right now we’re about to see an anti-establishment free-for-all, and then who’s got the best organizational structure in place and still has some money to spend may be in a position to benefit from that.
I think Trump is the appeal to the angry anti-establishment and Carson is the appeal to the not-so-angry anti-establishment with a social conservative twist. I think that a lot of those people are maybe just focused on being angry and not really thinking about November of next year as much.
This is one for the history books. This is not the first time we have had anti-establishment populism, it is the first time that we’ve had that in the days of social media, which just further accentuates things when they happen
Byrd: In SC, how much does experience matter to donors, party leaders, versus funding the mascot for the angry?
Felkel: If you are hiring someone for a job, you’d like to see a measure of success in the job in which you arehirng them–that’s just common sense. Respectfully, governing is not real estate development and brain surgery is not governing.
On the flip side, the angry crowd does not give credit to experience right now, we seem to be really discounting the value of success in governing.
Byrd: Who’s to blame for that?
Felkel: I think some of the responsiblity for where we are right now certainly falls on Washington and their inability to work together and get things done. But voters–even those who are angry right now–also bear responsibility for the state of affairs because they haven’t paid attention until it’s too late.
Byrd: We have a couple of these debates coming up soon that pit Carson and Trump and give an opportunity for someone with experience to weigh in. For South Carolina, what would be the key question you would ask, want to hear them answer?
Felkel: What is it about you and your candidacy that would enable you to take back the White House in the fall? Why and how?
Byrd: Is this frustrating for you as a Republican?
Felkel: It’s very frustrating for folks who recognize that Clinton will be the (Democratic) nominee and she may be their strongest and weakest candidate. It’s not the fourth quarter yet, and at least I hope that people will look at substance and abilities to work effectively and to govern as they move forward because right now experience does not seem to be of much import.