The ¡JEB! Campaign: For Real Or Performance Art?
As we gape in shock and awe at the bumbling campaign of ¡JEB! the Smartest Bush® we have to ask ourselves if he is really in the 2016 Goat Rodeo to win it, or if his heart is elsewhere and he’s just doing this because, well, his brother really screwed the pooch made a mess of the family franchise.
Or in the immortal words of Peggy Noonan in the pages of the Wall St. Journal in April of 2000, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.”
I present my case.
We start with his campaign branding, the exclamatory JEB! which deliberately leaves off the family moniker. As most Americans probably still cringe when they hear the name Bush, undoubtedly some polling and marketing group came up with the idea to drop the name. “No, no, no,” we think they said. “Painful rectal itch polls better than your family.” And so as the junior partner in the franchise ¡JEB! is now the decider, he dutifully dropped his last name.
You may also recall that ¡JEB! proclaimed his independence when he decidered to declared himself his own man, but of course bungled it by also mentioning his father and brother in the same breath:
Jeb Bush: ‘I love my father and my brother…but I am my own man … But I am my own man — and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.
The branding department weeps. You see, the Bush Brand is indelible, and ¡JEB! cannot shake it:
Quinnipiac pollsters asked respondents a simple, open-ended question: “What is the first word that comes to mind when you think of Jeb Bush?” Quinnipiac published a table of all the responses given five or more times. Here is the list of the top eight responses for Jeb, including the number of times people mentioned each particular word:
Bush — 136
family — 70
honest — 53
weak — 45
brother — 41
dynasty — 40
experience — 35
George — 28
Ouch, that’s going to leave a mark. One of the things you learn in bidness school is that when a brand defines the category (Kleenex = Kleenex) then you have few avenues to try to recast peoples emotional response to the brand. And not to put too fine a spin on things, the Bush brand is toxic.
Let us now move on to that independent man ¡JEB’s! choice of foreign policy advisors:
If you think you are having flashbacks from The Reagan, Bush-the-Elder, or Bush-the-Lesser years, you are not alone.
Maybe we should look at how ¡JEB! is handling keeping himself separate from his brother, you know, because Dubya’s tainted. Oopsie!
Maybe ¡JEB! has a great, local campaign chair who can lead the Tea Party-dominated primary in one of the early states. Oopsie!
Or maybe we should look into who he chooses to stand next to in his commercials. Oopsie!
And then of course, there’s his now-infamous Anchor Baby statement and his odd take-back, non-apology. As the late, great Governor Ann Richards said of Dubya, “he was born with a silver foot in his mouth.” Perhaps ¡JEB! borrowed it?
We could go on and on, but I think I can rest my case.
Either ¡JEB! is trolling us, or he is as inept a candidate as any member of his fabled family.