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Make-or-break time for Bush in GOP debate

<p>It’s a familiar narrative — a Republican debate in which Jeb Bush must finally deliver, and not just with a passing grade, but with a wow moment that can calm his “nervous Nellie” donors and quiet those student-becomes-the-master Marco Rubio storylines.</p><p>But with the next GOP debate more than a month away and December essentially a lost month for political fundraisers, Tuesday night’s showdown in Milwaukee is likely the last big moment on the national stage for Bush—for all the candidates—to dramatically change the state of this sprawling primary fight before the calendar turns to 2016.</p><p>Bush, who has hired new media gurus to coach him and seemingly tried on a number of different personas on the campaign trail since underwhelming (again) in the last debate — in New Hampshire last week, there was macho Jeb, introspective Jeb, cursing Jeb — is desperate to give his supporters something positive to grasp onto.</p><p>But as debate day dawned, Rubio again appeared to be a step ahead. Just as he effectively parried Bush’s rehearsed attack on the debate stage in Colorado, Rubio’s campaign Tuesday morning released a video featuring clips of Bush praising Rubio over the years, a preemptive strike aimed at deflating whatever attacks may be coming on the debate stage.</p><p>Bush truly takes the stage in a box. The fierce blowback he received after attempting to hit Rubio in Boulder underlined just how hard it’s going to be for the self-proclaimed &quot;joyful&quot; Bush to attack his former prot&eacute;g&eacute; without looking desperate.</p><br><p>He can continue to talk about his decade-old record as Florida governor, but that’s what he’s been doing his entire campaign and it’s yet to excite rank and file Republicans. And any sudden and dramatic change in Bush’s persona on stage could reinforce perceptions that he’s a flailing candidate.</p><p>And the Bush campaign is prepared to feed donors its line on the former Florida governor’s performance, having <a href=”http://www.politico.com/blogs/live-from-milwaukee/2015/11/jeb-bush-donors-conference-call-after-debate-215688″ target=”_blank”>scheduled a call</a> with top donors that will be hosted by senior Bush advisers Sally Bradshaw and Tim Miller. </p><p> If Rubio has helped put Bush in a straitjacket of sorts, he will likely be fending off attacks from other rivals, especially Donald Trump and possibly even Ted Cruz.</p><p>Cruz continues to fly under the radar but increasingly appears to be in a position of strength to make headway in the anti-establishment lane of the primary given his breadth of support from the party’s grassroots and a number of conservative millionaires and billionaires.</p><p>Ben Carson, who now sits atop some national polls, is sure to draw significant attention, especially after a week that saw a number of his anecdotal biographical claims come under serious scrutiny.</p><p>Rounding out the main event are Carly Fiorina, who saw her support spike after a strong performance in the second debate in September but whose sparse organization was unable to capture the momentum, John Kasich and Rand Paul.</p><p>Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee, two of the more colorful characters in the field, have been demoted to the undercard debate, which could dampen the fireworks in debate number four after three straight slugfests.</p><p>Additionally, the Fox Business Network and Wall Street Journal moderators in Milwaukee, looking to avoid the backlash aimed at the CNBC team who oversaw the free-for-all last month in Boulder, may focus questions more on policy ideas and leave it to the eight candidates sharing the main stage to instigate attacks on their own.</p><br>

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