Near Prescott, Ariz. — Witnesses described it as a “fiery ball” that zoomed across the sky about the time Jeb Bush accused Marco Rubio of missing too many votes in the Senate during Wednesday night’s GOP debate.
When it crashed in the Arizona desert, it left a crater where there was once a Bush presidential bid.
“I haven’t seen anything like this since Herman Cain in 2012,” said GOP astrophysicist Ted Billard as he examined the still-smoldering hole in the ground Thursday morning. “But Herman’s crater you could step across, about two feet. This one, we measured it, is a quarter of a mile across and 400 feet deep.
“Back in the day, the dust from it would have caused all the dinosaurs on earth to go extinct. In this case, it’s just Jeb.”
“We joke that it was the Cuban missile crisis, and in this case, the other guy didn’t blink,” said GOP consultant Phil Stevens in a reference to fellow presidential candidate Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose family fled Cuba, and whose performance Wednesday night sealed Bush’s doom.
When Jeb, the third member of the Bush family political dynasty to run for president, confronted Rubio over his missing Senate votes, the younger candidate, not missing a beat, shot back: “I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s voting record. Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”
Bush has been sinking in the polls for weeks and last week his campaign – once so well-funded — cut staff as his poll figures hit the low single digits and he sought desperately to somehow get the mojo back in his presidential run.
“I’ve got to be honest with you, at that moment when Rubio stung Jeb so hard I thought his head was going to snap back, I shed a tear for the Bush family dynasty,” said Stevens. “It’s over. It’s over.”
Witnesses on the ground in Arizona were especially stunned by the fiery crash. Ted Phillips, the rancher on whose property Jeb! cratered, grimaced and kicked the dirt with his boot Thursday morning.
“It spooked the cattle, but cattle have short memories, they recover, so I’m not worried about that,” said Phillips. “I was out here fussing with them and it got so close it singed my eyebrows off.” Philips took his cowboy hat off and rubbed his forehead. “See that? But they’ll grow back.”
Sandra Smith, who lives in nearby Skull Valley, said she saw the fiery ball and heard the explosive crash which rattled windows in her home. ““I’m just glad nobody got hurt,” she said. “When you run a campaign as bad as Jeb did, it’s actually a miracle if anybody survives.”
Others wondered why other candidates who didn’t perform especially well Wednesday night – John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul – didn’t crater. It’s simply a matter of physics, explained GOP astrophysicist Billard, who has tracked the arc of GOP presidential campaigns going back to Harold Stassen in 1992.
“Every candidate launches, and every candidate has an orbit and, in the end, those orbits begin to decay, like Sky Lab in the 1970s. So the question becomes who is going to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere first? Will they crater? Or will they simply burn up on re-entry, as if they never even existed. Like Rick Perry and Scott Walker.
“The one candidate who makes a safe reentry into the atmosphere, that’s your nominee.”
Bush campaign officials said Thursday morning the cratering “couldn’t have happened at a better time” because it fell on the same week as Halloween. All they need to do is tweak the campaign’s “Right to Rise” ads with new visuals of zombies climbing out of the crater.
The plan is to run the ads through the Halloween weekend only, so they won’t leave a lasting stain on Jeb’s presidential-ness.
“He only has to wear the fake plastic machete sticking out of his head for three days, at most, starting tomorrow,” said a campaign source. “And, there’s no real downside because, frankly, he could come back as the bride of Frankenstein and not look worse than he did last night.”
Consults said it could turn out to be a brilliant masterstroke.
“We’ve already done focus groups on this in Iowa, because we’re always doing the metrics on every eventuality,” said Bill Nelson, a GOP consultant. “We’ve asked voters: ‘Who would you rather have as president, Ted Cruz, or a zombie? And we went right down the list, Rand Paul or zombie, Chris Christie or zombie, Bobby Jindal or zombie? And I’ve got to tell you, there’s a big machete in the head vote out there.
“You think I’m joking — don’t you?”