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Third GOP debate may have been final nail in Jeb Bush’s coffin

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)

PHOENIX — Wednesday night may have marked the beginning of the end for Jeb Bush’s run at the White House in 2016, Valley political analysts said.

Conservative political expert Stan Barnes said Bush’s campaign is on its last legs after a poor showing in the third Republican debate.

“Bush was the one man onstage that really needed to put some points on the board,” Barnes said. “He did not do that. We can now talk openly about the Bush campaign fizzling and not going the distance.”

Fellow Valley political analyst Chris Herstam agreed, saying the loser of the night was Bush. His worst moment came when he tried to attack Marco Rubio on his Senate voting record.

“Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work,” Bush said. “I mean, literally, the Senate. What is it, like a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job.”

But Rubio was ready with his reply, citing the percentage of votes missed by previous senators who ran for president, including President Barack Obama.

“Rubio ate his lunch,” Herstam said. “Bush’s campaign is faltering horribly. He’s making massive staff cuts and he needed a big win. He failed miserably.”

KTAR political expert Mike O’Neil said Ohio Gov. John Kasich has now put himself in pole position as the establishment candidate after Bush’s poor performance.

“Bush was the establishment candidate and he hurt himself,” O’Neil said. “The exchange with Rubio did not come off well.

“Kasich had a decent night. He’s standing out from the other candidates as the guy saying, ‘We have to be reasonable. We can’t just slash and burn.'”

Herstam said Rubio is rapidly rising as the mainstream leader and Ted Cruz, after a good night on stage, will be perceived as the populist, social conservative leader of the candidates.

Herstam said frontrunner Dr. Ben Carson remains low key and not very definitive on the issues, while Donald Trump stayed true to form.

“Trump was his normal egomaniac self, which is starting to tire on people,” Herstam said. “Carly Fiorina was exposed on her poor record as CEO at Hewlett-Packard. So the three outsiders were, at the very least, mediocre.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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