MIAMI—Things ought to be pretty good for Jeb Bush right now. The former Florida governor leads by a narrow margin in national polls for the Republican presidential nomination, and by a wider margin in New Hampshire. He is overwhelmingly dominant in fundraising. And he does not lack for connections to the Republican donors, officials, and grandees collectively known as "the Establishment."
Yet before Bush's campaign could even officially begin on Monday, it seemed to be falling apart. His staff was in turmoil, the apparent result of tensions between new hires and longtime loyalists and potential opponents, unintimidated, kept jumping into the race. Bush's poll numbers, while still good enough for first place in a 15-way contest, have been on a downward trajectory since he stepped out on the campaign circuit. Pundits have compared him to Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor who led the field in the early run-up to the 2008 primaries, only to see his candidacy collapse when Republican activists in early-voting states turned their backs. The party that nurtured Bush's father and older brother seemed disinclined to grant him the same deference.
And so the stakes were high as Bush took the stage here on Monday, in a community-college gymnasium in a heavily Cuban neighborhood. The arena was packed with a diverse and passionate crowd (about 3,000, according to the campaign). They carried inflatable thundersticks and red-and-white signs with the candidate's exclamatory new logo, "Jeb!" (in Spanish: "¡Jeb!"). Bush was preceded onstage by a family of Cuban salsa musicians; an African American pastor; a Colombian American advocate for children with disabilities; his own Mexican American son, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush; and two slickly produced biographical videos. The ambiance, some noted, was that of a national convention in miniature, as if Bush could project his way to the nomination by acting as if he'd already achieved it.