It hasn’t been a strong 2015 for Jeb Bush. In fact, it’s been pretty dismal.
At the beginning of the year Bush had raised a lot of money and was the presumed, faraway front-runner among the punditry, but since then he’s seen Donald Trump steal his thunder, and his less-than-optimal debate performances have left him staggering and declining steadily in the opinion polls. You now see stories about how Bush is trying to “reenergize” and “rebrand” his campaign, which usually happens only a few weeks before a failed campaign finally clanks to a halt. Bush’s decline is probably the reason for the Washington Post story today that the “GOP Establishment” — whatever that is — is panicking that either Donald Trump or Ben Carson might actually win the nomination.
And then there’s his campaign logo: Jeb! He had the same logo with the exclamation point when he ran for Governor in Florida, but now it looks sort of desperate and needy. If he’s trying to reenergize his campaign, you wonder if he’s going to add a few more exclamation points to make his name look even more exciting!
I don’t know what Jeb Bush’s campaign style was like when he won the races in Florida, but in this cycle — so far, at least — he comes across as a kind of gray, distracted figure who likes to talk about policy issues. If he were your neighbor, you feel like you’d see him wearing a button-up sweater and raking leaves every weekend, and you’d just give him a wave and try to avoid getting into a conversation because you’d spend 15 deadly minutes listening him talk earnestly about some arcane issue the zoning board decided.
Jeb Bush would be a fine candidate if candidates just took a closed-book test on their knowledge of the issues — but of course they don’t. A big part of campaigns is getting out, connecting with the people, and charging them up about why electing the candidate is essential to the future of the Republic. Can Jeb Bush do that, with or without the exclamation point? He sure hasn’t shown it to date, and his failure to knock Trump or Carson out of the race and show them up as know-nothing amateurs has got to be a source of concern for his advisors and supporters. If he can’t make Donald Trump look out of his depth, how would he fare against the Democratic nominee?
So Jeb Bush is left with money, and an exclamation point. But political punctuation can only take you so far.