“I believe that a conservative can win, campaigning with his arms wide open, with joy in his heart,”Jeb Bush said, explaining how he will win at a conference in Reno, Nevada.
Jeb, once the favorite of the Republican establishment and most financially supported candidate to date, might have a super PAC worth over $114 million (“Right to Rise”), but this has not prevented his unexpected drop in popularity. Though a myriad of doubts initially surrounded big names Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, these three political outsiders managed to undermine Jeb by garnering 58 percent of the Republican vote. Jeb is now vying to stay relevant and is determined to rekindle his following. So, how is Jeb making sure he still has a shot at making history as the third Bush to become POTUS?
Revolutionizing His Party
Since Jeb’s days as uber-conservative governor of Florida, he has shifted toward a centrist stance on a range of issues. While he still touts conservative tax cuts, Jeb’s stances on immigration and education set him apart from other conservatives inside the Beltway.
On immigration, Jeb’s relatively lenient stance will make his conservative audience wary; his amnesty-like outlook that clashes with Trump’s plan to implement a nationwide e-verify, a penalty for overstaying one’s visa, and a mandatory deportation of all illegals.
As for education reform, Jeb fully backs the Common Core program despite solid arguments against the standards. For example, districts worry about spending too much on technology for the mandatory online tests and sacrificing the quality of education in the states where the standards already exceed those of Common Core. Some conservatives have denounced the program as “Obamacore.”
If Jeb was eventually to become the GOP nominee, the perception of the Republican Party would be revolutionized in these arenas.
Changing the Public’s Perception
Trump’s recent statement, “Don’t forget, he was supposed to win. And he just doesn’t have the energy,” echoes the same idea that can be found in all of his attacks toward Bush — that Jeb is allegedly a passive candidate.
Instead of defending himself from the hotheaded real estate tycoon’s remarks with verve, Jeb usually opted to give subdued responses. Though this approach falls in line with his desire to win “with arms wide open, with joy in his heart,” clearly, he needs to adopt a more assertive tone in order to stand out from the crowd of 15 diverse GOP presidential hopefuls.
It should come as no surprise to the public that Bush’s campaign now focuses on portraying him as an extremely passionate man. He hoped using his name followed by an exclamation point as his logo would “connote excitement.”
Efforts to try and separate his “low-energy” persona from the “ever-ready” character with which he plans to finish his race to the White House have gone successfully so far.
Some of the more memorable ways in which Jeb accomplished turning around his image include making a strong presence at both the second Republican debate and the debut episode of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In his interview with Colbert, Jeb addressed his lack of an actual slogan by expressing in jest that he hoped using his name followed by an exclamation point as his logo would “connote excitement.”
All 23 million viewers who tuned into CNN’s coverage of the Reagan debate will recall when Jeb fervidly demanded that Trump apologize to his beloved wife for accusing her of influencing his “lenient” immigration policy, or when Rand Paul’s criticism of the Iraq invasion caused Jeb to jump to his brother’s defense, met with a roaring round of applause. Yet another moment that can’t be missed from the second GOP debate was the jab that Jeb hurled at Trump in reference to his flaky and unsubstantiated policies: “You can’t just talk about this stuff and insult leaders around the world and expect a good result.”
Opening Your Minds
There is a fighting chance Jeb can restore the missing spark in his campaign and further heat up the competition. To prove his GOP mettle, he will have to step up his rhetoric game so that he can improve the public’s perception of him and be able to stand out from the other candidates based on his policies’ merits.
He should not veer excessively from his original “campaigning with joy” strategy, but rather modify it slightly by infusing his rhetoric with a little edge every now and then. Another Bush in the capital is a potentially intriguing situation. Jonathan Martin from The New York Times declared that if Jeb won the presidency, it could “reshape Republican politics for a generation.”
We should all go into 2016’s election keeping open minds and refraining from predicting outcomes. We might think we’ve figured elections out, but “we’re hasty, and politicians are slippery.” Remember Scott Walker’s sudden decision to quit even though his numbers were not suffering as badly as some of remaining candidates.
Jeb is a skilled politician and the other candidates would do well in not only aspiring to match his track record as governor of Florida, but also in learning a lesson from the civility he brings to everything he does.
Staying relevant underneath the shadows of Carson, Trump and Fiorina should not be too much of a concern, as the presidential race is far from over. Jeb still has the potential to fire up his campaign and scorch the other candidates before election season rolls around.
After all, Carson’s intolerance for Muslims and lack of political knowledge (suggesting a religious test for holding a place in office violates the Constitution) are enough tinder to set off the flaming out of his appeal, despite his claim that his main qualification is “having a brain.”
Fiorina experienced a recent rise in the polls on account of her strong debate presence and headline-worthy back-and-forth with Trump, but her appeal will most likely not last either because her demeanor is too serious. She was the only candidate in the debate who didn’t crack one smile or at least attempt some form of humor. Personality aside, Fiorina’s failed business record at Hewlett-Packard will be her real undoing.
Precedence also proves that Americans do not usually elect political outsiders. It’s only happened four times in history: Zachary Taylor, Ulysses Grant, Herbert Hoover and Dwight Eisenhower. Three of these four were war heroes.
The charm of the “Big Three” will burn out soon enough because people will come to realize that experience, not fresh perspective, is the best asset of them all — the informed voter will not let the original disenchantment with Beltway politics dictate who becomes POTUS in 2016.