Jeb Bush's new ad is great. It also reveals his campaign's weakness.

Jeb Bush has been caught off guard by pockets of American society venting their anger in ways different from any time he can recall. 

Mike Blake/REUTERS
Republican US presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump (left) responds to criticism from former Gov. Jeb Bush (right), during the Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nev., Dec. 15.

Jeb Bush just released an anti-Donald Trump ad in New Hampshire that may be the best spot of his campaign to date. That’s what many members of the United States punditocracy are saying on social media, in any case. The ad’s plain, tough, and shows Mr. Bush speaking with passion. It brands Mr. Trump as a “jerk.”

But is it too late? In its own way the spot also shows why Bush is in dire straits, polling in single digits with at least four rivals in front of him. That’s because the ad is old, in the sense that it talks about stuff that happened months ago. It could have run in late November and probably should have, since it was already clear by then that Trump was a 2016 phenomenon and Bush was, well, not.

Bush misjudged that situation, though, he admitted this week in a reflective interview with the Associated Press. He was not really prepared for the rise of Trump or the seething mood of GOP voters.

“This is dramatically different, because the country is dramatically different, and people are reflecting their anger and angst in a way that is very different than any time that I can recall,” Bush told the AP. “And I’ve been involved in politics for a long while.”

OK, back to the ad, which is something of a template for how Bush could have countered Trump and his attacks all along.

It starts with a brief shot of “Donald is a jerk” typed into a YouTube video search box, just so you get the idea right off. Then it moves fast to Bush himself before a small audience, saying, “I’ve just got to get something off my chest, Donald Trump is a jerk.”

Then it moves into a recap, via news clips and screen shots, of an incident from last November when Trump appeared to mock a New York Times reporter, Serge Kovaleski, by imitating Mr. Kovaleski’s physical disability in front of a crowd.

Trump has disputed this interpretation of his actions, saying that “despite having one of the all-time great memories I certainly do not remember [Kovaleski].”

The Bush ad then proceeds through a meeting between Bush himself and a physically challenged child, and concludes with him saying, “we’re all equal under God’s watchful eye, that’s what I believe. And when anybody, anybody disparages people with disabilities, it sets me off.” 

The whole thing makes Bush look energetic, as he speaks with obvious feeling. It’s tight, no-nonsense. Too bad – for Bush and his supporters at least – that it comes at a time when he’s close to an afterthought in the 2016 race. He’s dropped to under 4 percent in national polls and his favorable ratings have been sliding steadily since July. So, perhaps they should have started running stuff like this earlier. Like when the incident first occurred?

“There have been a few debates between then and now when Bush could have made this an issue. By now, it’s old non-news,” writes Ed Morrissey at Hot Air.

Interestingly, the spot was produced by the Bush campaign itself with direct contributions. It didn’t come from Bush’s famously rich Right to Rise super political acton committee, which has burned through lots of cash without a discernable positive effect on the race.

Perhaps at this point the Bush team figures that the race will come down to Trump and an anti-Trump, and that their only chance is to fight hard to become The Donald’s most tenacious opponent.

“That’s a savvy way to look at the field,” writes the savvy Chris Cillizza in The Washington Post’s Fix political blog.

“Of course, it was also true a month or two ago – when Bush probably should have put this ad on TV,” Mr. Cillizza concludes.

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