strong>MILWAUKEE — Why did Jeb Bush do badly in the CNBC debate two weeks ago? Some Bush advisers came away from that experience believing Bush's problem was that he respected the debate's rules too much, deferring to moderators at the expense of getting his message out. Part of Bush's preparation for tonight's Fox Business debate here in Milwaukee involved training Bush to ignore the rules, if that's what it takes to make his point.
There will be a different Bush onstage tonight, senior adviser Al Cardenas said a few hours before the session. In Boulder, Cardenas explained, Bush approached the debate "saying look, I'm committed to playing by the rules. Playing by the rules means moderators run the show. You answer the questions, regardless of how silly they are. And the other candidates opted for a different course, which seemed to have played out a lot better with the voters and the pundits. And so [tonight] Jeb's going to say look, I'm going to play by the same rules everybody else does, which is really not in keeping with the traditions of presidential elections. I may feel in my heart that it's beneath the dignity of the office, but I'm going to have to do what I have to do, and that's the Jeb Bush that will show up tonight."
Under the Bush camp scenario, Bush lost his now-famous exchange with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio because he, Bush, obeyed the CNBC moderator and did not respond with a sharp follow-up after Rubio slammed-dunked Bush's attack on Senate absences. "What's missing was [Bush's] retort," Cardenas said. "Again, it was playing by the rules. The moderator said no, stop, and he stopped. And he shouldn't have stopped. He should have finished what he started, and he knows that. And so that's not going to happen this evening if similar circumstances come about. So you'll see a different Jeb Bush from that perspective."
I asked Cardenas if that meant Bush would interrupt and push people around if necessary. "That means making sure that his point of view gets heard," Cardenas said. What happened in Boulder, Cardenas added, "is not going to happen this evening."
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