Jeb Bush

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall style meeting in Miami on Tuesday. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Robert Costa and Philip Rucker
September 2, 2015 at 8:28 PM

This is not how Jeb Bush thought his summer would end. The candidate once seen as the most likely Republican presidential nominee is languishing in the polls, his fundraising has slowed, and he endures daily taunts from the rival who unseated him as the front-runner, Donald Trump.

Through it all, Bush is sticking to the same strategy that he and his advisers laid out months ago: Establish himself as a tested ­conservative reformer who served eight years as Florida governor, ride out the chaotic pre-primary season and wait for the party to coalesce around him.

Even as he shifts tactics over the short term to fight back against Trump, Bush is plodding forward, returning time and again in his appearances to the comfort zone of his years in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital, when he was an alpha leader and fellow Republicans showed him deference rather than defiance.

But deflating Trump is an urgent mission, necessary in the eyes of Bush confidants to give their candidate room to make his preferred pitch.

Bush traveled to Pensacola, Fla., last week to recall his stewardship of the state through massive hurricanes. On Tuesday, he touted his education reforms at La Progresiva Presbyterian School in Miami’s Little Havana. And the first television ads promoting Bush, which his allied super PAC will begin airing this month in early caucus and primary states, are expected to trumpet the conservative aspects of his Florida tenure.

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