Jeb! Jeb!!! Jeb?

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.

The Republican Hair Club For Men

Say what you will about the Republican candidates for President, but you have to concede one thing:  they are displaying a fantastically diverse set of hairstyles.  With 16 men ranging from 40s to nearly 70 in the field and not a chrome domer in the bunch, the GOP guys have beaten the odds.  In fact, it’s so statistically improbable that you have to wonder if it isn’t random chance and instead was the a plan of a shadowy, secret organization . . . .

Chairman TRUMP:  OK, I’m calling this meeting of the Republican Hair Club for Men to order.  Gentlemen, congratulations on a good first debate.  Governor Bush, do you have a report for us?

Gov. BUSH:  Yes, Mr. Chairman.  As you all know, our plan was to subconsciously appeal to the deep-seated hair fantasies and vanities of the American male by presenting candidates who cover the broadest possible range of different coiffures short of outright baldness  And I’m pleased to say it has worked beyond our wildest dreams.  Our studies show that not only did that first Fox debate achieve record ratings, but the vast majority of men who tuned in really were just checking out our different stylings.

Sen. CRUZ:  And I’m betting a number of those viewers saw the benefits of Brylcreem, didn’t they?  The success of Mad Men made American men recognize that “a little dab’ll do ya” is a darn good look.  In fact, you might even say it’s slick.  Get it?

Chairman TRUMP (sighing):  Senator — we get it, we just don’t want it.  I’m from the “wet head is dead” school myself.  And I know Governor Bush prefers his distracted professor look, Governor Walker has the “boyish front, bald spot in back” ‘do covered, Dr. Carson’s strongly representing the short hair contingent, Senator Rubio and Governor Huckabee are displaying the benefits of a razor cut at both ends of the age spectrum . . . .

Sen. PAUL (interrupting):  And don’t forget us Kentuckians who want a haircut that reminds everyone of Davy Crockett and his coonskin cap!

Chairman TRUMP:  Still having a bad day, eh?  Yes, Governor Kasich?

Gov. KASICH:  To add to Governor Bush’s report, I wanted to note that the polling data is showing that my little surge in New Hampshire is almost entirely attributable to my coiffure.  I was going for a rumpled, devil-may-care look, but in the North Country where they hibernate for most of the winter, it’s been interpreted as “bed head.”  It just shows the political value of an ambiguous, multi-purpose styling that covers a number of bases.

Sen. RUBIO:  That’s an excellent point, Governor.  And it reminds me:  the barbers, hair stylists, and product manufacturers that have been of our strongest supporters have identified a gaping hole in our coverage of the spectrum of men’s hairstyles.

Dr. CARSON:  It’s the mullet, isn’t it?

Sen. RUBIO:  Precisely.  How about it, Governor Christie?  As the representative of the Garden State, you’re the logical choice, aren’t you?  Of course, you’d have to get a tattoo and maybe a piercing, too.

Gov. CHRISTIE:  I think you’re confused there, Senator.  I could see it if you were asking me to adopt a greasy or spiky Jersey Shore-type cut, but a mullet really is more of an Appalachian look, so I’ll have to defer to Senator Paul to take his tousled ‘do to the obvious next level.

Gov. WALKER:  Speaking of the next level, Mr. Chairman, when are you going to share with us your secret about how you hold that extravagant mane of yours — whatever it is — in place?  Is it a gel or cream?  Is it some kind of top-secret spray?  Lacquer?

Chairman TRUMP:  Sorry, boys — but that information is more classified than the email found on Hillary Clinton’s private server.

Gov. HUCKABEE:  It’s about time that someone talked about the opposition!  I suggest that each of you stop this orgy of self-congratulation and think for a minute about the Democratic front-runner.  Let’s face it:  Secretary Clinton, alone, has covered more hairdos than our entire group.  She’s had short cuts, long looks, hair flipped up at the end, hair curled under — I’m sure if I did enough internet research I could find an ’80s big hair coiff and maybe even a beehive in her past, too.  It’s incredibly impressive.  She’s just one woman, yet she’s managed to span virtually the entire spectrum of women’s hairstyles!

Chairman TRUMP (suddenly somber):  He’s right, men — we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.  This meeting is now adjourned.  Senator Cruz, could you clean off the back of your chair before you go?