Even as Jeb Bush's prospects brighten, he faces calls to quit
The most important day in Jeb Bush's presidential campaign is Feb. 9.
That's when New Hampshire residents vote and Bush's precarious campaign finally fizzles out or when he resurfaces as a leading candidate after months of teetering on the brink of irrelevance.
Even more than Iowa's caucuses in just over a week, the Granite State primary should provide clarity to a contest that has defied prediction and long-held assumptions about presidential politics.
"It's the first real inflection point," said Al Cardenas, a top Republican fundraiser and Bush supporter from Miami. "For some people, it's the definitive last stand. For some people it may be a course alteration."
For others, out of money and momentum, it's sure to be the end.
Anything but a strong showing for Bush will vastly increase calls for him to quit. He already faces pressure to bow out rather than attack fellow mainstream conservatives seen as stronger candidates than he has proven to be.
But Bush is in a unique position.
After strengthening his standing in the earliest voting states, he has a more credible path to the nomination than he has had for months.
At the same time, Bush is poised to inflict lasting damage on the establishment wing of the Republican Party and help deliver the nomination to Donald Trump. The former governor's allies already have spent $20 million on TV ads attacking onetime protege Marco Rubio, who sits in third place in most polls.
...Republican consultant Rick Wilson, a Rubio supporter from Tallahassee, said Bush is in danger of damaging the legacy of goodwill built by his father and brother among Republicans.
"When does the campaign that is obviously not moving forward and the only thing it can do is destroy Marco Rubio, when does that campaign finally tip over and destroy that legacy?" Wilson said. "He would get out tomorrow if he was getting advice looking beyond the horizon of this campaign. He would say, 'In order to nominate somebody who isn't going to lead us to electoral disaster, I believe it's time to leave this race.' "