Presidential hopeful Jeb Bush works to distinguish himself from family legacy
George Birnbaum, a political strategist and owner of GEB International in Atlanta, told the American Media Institute Bush has to focus on his campaign rather than trying to distance himself from his father and brother and being perceived as “President Bush Three.”
“I’ve noticed in the past five to eight years that there’s a discontent around the world with establishment political parties,” Birnbaum said. “There is a fear that something needs to change. People feel stuck, educationally, economically. I recently conducted a poll and asked, ‘Do you think the dream of your parents is free to you?’ I’ve been told no.”
Birnbaum said the pulses of the voters are they’re blaming the establishment politicians’ lack of functionality. “They [voters] feel stuck and they want change at almost any cost. (Donald) Trump and (Bernie) Sanders are not seen as establishment politicians. I think that’s why we’ve seen momentum for them.”
And a lot of that anger, Birnbaum said, is being directed at Jeb Bush. “Even if he has policies that are different from his brother and father, he’s seen as part of that political class, overcoming that will be difficult for him.”
Birnbaum said Bush’s real problem is his overall image. “Bush has to dynamically appeal to young voters and not appear to be a guy who’s running a gubernatorial campaign.”
He went on to explain Bush needs to take advantage of the latest technology. “I would say the first real digital campaign was in 2008, digital marketing: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, those are all technologies of the last six years. I think his whole image has to be youthful and dynamic.”
Birnbaum also said Bush has to make the campaign less about him.
“Even the videos he’s put out, he’s in the frame, he’s the one speaking," he said. "He needs surrogates, people speaking on his behalf, those outside the political class. He was endorsed by Eric Cantor, who was thrown out of a primary due to an angry political class. Why accept his endorsement?”
Bush’s campaign did not return emails from the American Media Institute seeking comment.
Matt Dallek, with the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, said it would be all but impossible for Jeb Bush to distance himself from his family’s legacy.
“The slogan is all Jeb. There’s no public events with his brother and father; they’ve basically said Jeb is his own man,” he said. “But he had trouble saying whether or not invading Iraq was a mistake (and) his basic philosophy is similar to his brother’s, a compassionate conservative.”
Dallek said Jeb Bush is attempting to capture the Latino vote, as his brother did in 2000. His foreign policy is similar to that of his brother’s, as well. “He’s not for tax increases; he is for tax cuts. On big issues, he’s basically similar to where his brother was. Some issues have shifted but his core philosophies are similar.”
If Dallek were to advise, what should Jeb Bush do?
“He has to allude where he is different from his brother and father, that could be useful, in some ways he needs to be a little more hard-nosed.”