Jeb Bush and the Perils of High Expectations

It was just October when Bush said he thought he would win in Iowa.

ByABC News
February 2, 2016, 12:21 PM

— -- It was just four months ago when Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he thought he would win the Iowa Republican caucuses.

That, obviously, did not happen.

Bush, according to Associated Press results, collected less than 3 percent of the vote. Although he beat the other governors in the race, his main rivals, he still placed far behind former protégé Marco Rubio, who finished a strong third.

In a memo Bush’s top advisers sent this morning to supporters and prominent donors, which was obtained by ABC News after first being reported by Politico, the campaign downplayed the Iowa caucuses because the winners rarely go on to win the nomination.

"The Jeb 2016 campaign has never made Iowa a centerpiece to winning the nomination. We have long viewed Iowa as just one of 56 contests,” it reads, adding, “The Granite State [of New Hampshire] has a much better track record in selecting the Republican nominee.”

His poor finish was not wholly unexpected. Advisers and supporters have long known that Bush would not be among the top four in the state. “We finished roughly where I thought we would,” one Florida-based donor told ABC News.

The memo also says Bush’s time in the state was scaled back and that a strategic decision was made in November to shift resources away from Iowa.

That’s not entirely true, however. The campaign did cancel its Iowa TV ad buy to shift money toward staffing on the ground.

But between Bush’s campaign and Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting him, in terms of advertising, they have spent over $2,800 per voter, according to data from Morning Consult, a digital politics and policy outlet.

And the campaign announced in December it was boosting its paid staff in the state to over 20 from 11.

Indeed, Bush has not neglected Iowa outright, as some of his donors would have liked. He has made 45 visits and spent 23 days there since his announced run in June. While this number is dwarfed by the likes of Marco Rubio and Iowa winner Ted Cruz, he has hosted more events there than Donald Trump, who placed second.

Now, the campaign is urging its supporters to pivot to New Hampshire, where Bush has spent substantially more time.

“The real race for the nomination begins on February 9th in New Hampshire. It will set the race going forward and today, Jeb Bush is in a very strong position in the state,” according to the campaign memo.

Bush, as a Bush, is plagued by the prominence of his family. His Achilles heel may not be the expectations he sets for himself but the expectations of others.

When he entered the race, he entered as the presumptive nominee, the guy to beat, a mantle perhaps too heavy for the former Florida governor.

In December, he told CBS News’ John Dickerson that he was happy to not be the front-runner.

"I feel much better back here,” he said.

He added, "I have a brother that was president and a father that was president. And that higher expectation was important to realize. And so being the front runner made me feel like the other guys just dancing right through this. I have to go earn it. I have higher expectations on me than people have on me. So it doesn't bother me a bit that the expectations are high."

Now, in the Granite State, the time is ripe for a comeback. If Bush can do well in New Hampshire, he may be able to garner momentum into South Carolina, a state in which his father and brother have won each of their primaries. Bush has a full schedule in New Hampshire, with eight events between Tuesday and Thursday.

Monday night, Bush left Iowa before results were announced to be in place at a town hall in Manchester. “The reset has started as of tonight,” Bush said. “Next Tuesday, we’re going to surprise the world.”