LONDONDERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE – The number of registered Republican voters who think Jeb Bush could win the U.S. presidential election has plummeted, a new Associated Press-GfK poll finds — the latest sign of trouble for the son and brother of former presidents once expected to become the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
The poll found that just 40 percent of registered Republicans think Bush could win the general election in November, down from 60 percent in October. Republicans are now no more likely than Democrats to see Bush as a potential winner.
Meanwhile, 39 percent say they view Bush unfavorably. That’s almost the same percentage as billionaire front-runner Donald Trump, who has stunned the political world with an unorthodox campaign that has propelled him to the top of Republican polls ahead of the primary contests that begin in February.
Bush is focusing his campaign on policy and his ability to govern successfully.
Perhaps even more troubling for Bush, given his insistence on talking about policy and his ability to govern, the poll found that GOP voters view Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star, as more competent than the two-term governor of Florida.
After setbacks in October, including deep campaign spending cuts and a widely criticized debate performance, Bush sought to reassure donors who have contributed more than $100 million to his campaign and a separate pro-Bush organization by resetting his effort with the auspicious slogan: “Jeb Can Fix It.”
Part of the shift in strategy was redoubling Bush’s emphasis on New Hampshire, where aides said the candidate’s serious style and affinity for one-on-one policy engagement was a close fit with New Englanders, who also typically hold themselves as independent of the national story line.
New Hampshire is a key state because it holds its election early in the primary season.
Bush has held nearly 20 town hall-style meetings in the state, each with about 100 voters attending, including in places most other candidates have not visited.
But the content of Bush’s town hall talks remains the same, with him passing on Trump’s flash and penchant for bombast to remain centered on telling the story of his time as governor and his detailed plans for the nation’s economy and military.
He has faith — and some good-natured bullheadedness — that voters will eventually come around.
“I’m not running for entertainer or anything like this. I hope you want a candidate who has actually thought it through, who actually has plans,” he said while discussing the federal debt during one recent appearance.
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