When Jeb Bush came on the scene last year, there was plenty of chatter about him being the presumptive nominee, and if you look at some of the moves his campaign made all those months ago, you get a good idea of just how easy a ride they thought they would have. That all changed with the appearance of Donald Trump, an appearance the Jeb camp obviously didn’t consider to be a serious threat based on Jeb’s lack of preparation in interviews and bizarre self-marketing choices.
Take, for instance, the infamous “Silicon Valley Favorites” video:
In it, Jeb cycles through several competing products and names his preference. Innocuous piano music plays in the background almost as if it were an advertisement for the products rather than the candidate. Asked to choose between a laptop and iPad, Bush replies, “MacBook Pro, baby,” and gives a cringe-inducing pursed-lip smile. What’s so puzzling about the video is what exactly the Bush camp thought it would get out of it. Sure, you can tell who its target audience is—middle-aged, tech-savvy Gen Xers and to a lesser extent Gen Y and possibly even tech-obsessed Millennials—but as the comments indicate, there’s no reason to believe why it would work. It’s clearly a ploy, Bush comes off as awkward and insincere, and it’s something that could be a good Tim and Eric skit with just a little bit of editing.
Then there’s this bizarre entry:
After getting repeatedly pounded by Trump in the debates, the Bush campaign decided to release ‘A Message from Barbara Bush,’ in which Jeb’s mother can only muster that Jeb ‘seems to be’ the most qualified candidate. The whole thing makes him look even weaker than he already did. Barbara Bush might hold some clout with (much) older voters, but even if you’re thinking about young people who had regular exposure to her from ’88 to ’92, those voters are now at least in their mid-forties. Still, YouTube’s audience skews young, which would explain why the video’s been downvoted into oblivion and ‘Silicon Valley Favorites’ replete with scathing comments. But the worst part, obviously, is that her wording shows very clearly that she’s not even entirely sure Jeb is best suited for the job.
His stilted interviews and perplexing phrasing allow for unbelievably terrible moments to be recut or played normally, all in the service of making him look like a buffoon. He thought speaking Spanish would endear Latino voters and moderates instead of angering the much larger nativist base. He never suspected that the man who made this video would be the same man to set up an elaborate prank wherein he claimed he would get a Jeb Bush tattoo on his neck if his Vine got 1,000,000 loops. He never imagined every single tweet he spit out would return a seemingly endless supply of ruthless responses. He never considered that reusing the ‘Jeb!’ exclamation mark that was successful in his bid for governor of Florida would be mocked extensively.
It seems so very clear that Bush and his advisers thought the election, or at least the run-up to the nomination, would be a cakewalk. With all the money he raised, all the connections his family has, all the high-profile names on his campaign team, and all the experience living a life fully entrenched in the political world provides, it’s easy to see how overconfidence could trip them up into thinking he would never have to answer questions about his brother’s ill legacy or worry about the far-right ire of the Tea Party manifesting itself in outsiders such as Cruz and especially Trump. It’s almost understandable how the Bush campaign could come to the idiotic conclusion that after eight years of Obama and a likely Clinton nomination, the right and even some independents might long for the days of W. to return, but perhaps in a more ‘intelligent’ form.
But the race has been an ugly one, and Bush fumbled when he first tried launching attacks at Trump and Rubio (who, funnily enough, accused Bush of using a scripted attack). He (sort of) scored a point, inadvertent as it was, in the last debate when Trump shushed him and the crowd booed. Problem is, Bush did as he said, so he came off once again as a pushover. (Same with this clip where Bush gets cut off and tossed out of an event at which he was scheduled to speak.) Still, he went after Trump with more conviction than he had in the past. And now we learn that Bush, seeing that Kasich has virtually no chance in SC and that Rubio is stumbling big time, is planning to launch a ‘scorched earth’ campaign against both candidates in the hopes it’ll return him to his presumptive seat of establishment favorite. I mean, it’ll still keep him in third place behind Trump and Cruz, but he’ll be the establishment favorite! That’s like being the teacher’s favorite when there are actually popular students among the other kids! That counts, right?
I’m sure Bush understood that he’d run negative campaign ads, though probably he thought they’d be against Scott Walker, and he probably didn’t expect them to be as nasty. The entrance of Trump completely upended the kind of campaign trail Bush thought he would forge. He thought his name, folksy if not dopey demeanor, and reliance on seemingly pragmatic stances would let him glide to November. He thought photos like this
would be endearing rather than pathetic. And yet there is still the belief in the media that after a fourth-place finish in New Hampshire with 11%, where he spent approximately $30 million to get about 31,000 votes, or about $1,000 per vote (an improvement from Iowa, where he spent $3,000 per vote), whereas Rubio only spent a few million to get basically the same result, that Bush can still overcome the remaining establishment candidates and the juggernauts of Trump and Cruz to gain the nomination. Never say never, I guess, but a Bush nomination would prove how absolutely ridiculous our political process is. And it would prove that having the most money can make any idiot electable.