Readers of my column will be familiar with my disdain for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. I've questioned his intelligence, I've denied the existence of his political acumen and I've even intimated that his family name is his biggest asset in the race, all in the pages of the Texan. However, for a brief moment this past week, I also felt pity for him.
At a recent campaign event in New Hampshire, Bush delivered a speech that prompted a tepid reaction. Actually, tepid is an understatement; his comments were followed by total silence. Bush frowned, titled his head and — in the most pathetic voice I have heard in some time — uttered two words that likely sunk whatever chances his presidential campaign still had left: "Please clap."
It's funny, especially given how cocky Bush had been in the early stages of the campaign. (He triumphed in early endorsements and fundraising, which compose the so-called “silent primary.”) It's also a little tragic, especially after seeing Bush's full potential during Saturday's Republican debate.
Bush repeatedly hounded the frontrunner, Donald Trump, most notably his controversial use of eminent domain for one of his business's casinos in New Jersey. Bush contended that Trump abused the process to evict an elderly woman from her home, allegedly in order to build a parking lot.
It was a shining moment for Bush, who had a few other fleeting moments of clarity while engaging Trump. My personal favorite was when Bush lambasted Trump for being a bully, namely after Trump ridiculed a reporter with physical disabilities.
This last debate for the New Hampshire primary, likely the Bush campaign's last as well, proved his potential as a candidate for president. Indeed, all the lackluster campaigns — perhaps because they have finally realized that they must no longer placate the Tea Party — have begun redeeming themselves in many ways.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is cruising for a sixth-place finish in his supposedly-strong state of New Hampshire, also came out swinging at the debate. Time and time again he hounded Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, now seen as the establishment's likely choice. Christie brought attention to Rubio's inexperience and overdependence on trite talking points, goading him into repeating nearly the exact same phrase four times in a row.
Even Ohio Gov. John Kasich, largely seen as the most centrist of the bunch, has been embracing his bipartisan identity of late. In New Hampshire, he has become unapologetic about his non-Republican support, attempting to spin it into an asset and a comparison to former President -- and Republican patriarch -- Ronald Reagan.
As a society, we laugh at someone like Jeb Bush, who makes guarded comments and measured promises. But we should really cry at Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who lies without limit and test the limits of hyperbole at big rallies with tons of applause. This is the finest hour for those few establishment Republicans still kicking on a national stage: Bush, Christie and Kasich. Republicans and independents would be wise to not ignore them, no matter how pathetic.
Horwitz is a government senior from Houston. Follow him on Twitter @NmHorwitz.