PETERBOROUGH, NH — Jeb Bush admitted Thursday that Donald Trump might just clinch the Republican nomination despite his own objections to the frontrunner's bombastic style and general election prospects.
"If Donald Trump wins the nomination, and he might, Hillary Clinton will beat him like a drum," he said. "Just tear him up. I mean, it will be ugly to watch."
Bush has assured voters for months that his slow and steady strategy would ultimately win the race to the nomination — even as his candidacy sunk below expectations and Trump continued to rise.
The governor even carries small tortoise figurines in his pocket that he gives to children at campaign events to illustrate the fable he hopes could be a model for his eventual ascent.
"I think we need a president who has been tested in his life, someone who has a steady hand and someone that you can look back and say he has been a committed conservative from day one," he said. "You look at the Florida record and I promise you're looking at that guy."
That was the message during a three-day swing through New Hampshire, where Bush saw larger than normal crowds and encouraged voters not to squander a vote on Trump.
"You make us walk through the hot coals," he said. "I have enough confidence in the voters of New Hampshire that you'll make the right decision of who our party's nominee will be."
That trust, however, appeared not to be ironclad when Bush told the Washington Post in an interview that "Trump's the front-runner and there's a jump ball for second."
It's a small shift in tone for Bush, who had been previously adamant that Trump wouldn't capture the Republican nomination. The governor has been a proud champion of the anti-Trump cause by frequently touting his willingness to combat the frontrunner while other candidates take a pass.