They Still Read his Lips

This article details the reasoning behind Right To Rise USA’s ad supporting Jeb Bush in the 2016 GOP primary against Marco Rubio, his main rival among establishment-backed candidates. The ad is strong in criticizing Rubio, pointing to his Senate record as a politician who often flip flops. However, the term “Washington Politician” used negatively in this ad is almost certainly more applicable to Bush himself than Rubio.

Right To Rise USA, the super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, has released this ad (Vane) with the intent of swaying the portion of the Republic base presently supporting Marco Rubio. They tend to be very conservative, generally against pro-immigration policies of liberals like Senator Chuck Schumer and also angry over the fact that they cannot trust Washington politicians who often flip flop and cannot keep their promises. The ad accurately assesses its audience and the disastrous political environment facing Republican constituencies in the 2016 primary. Thus to say that the message is addressed to the right audience (conservatives in Iowa and South Carolina) through proper channels (local TV, cable broadcasting such a Fox News), is fair enough. The media weakness is that this ad has not received great attention in social media, and the Right To Rise USA YouTube channel, now of trivial significance to Bush, could benefit from increased attention.

However, the main problem with this ad stems from the messenger himself. In the eyes of the Republican base, if Marco Rubio can be labelled as part of the establishment, Jeb Bush is a pedigreed scion of the establishment: his father and brother have both sat in the Oval Office and broke promises by raising taxes (read my lips) and supporting Medicare Part D, moves which angered fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party. Prior to his presidential run announcement, Jeb himself made a very soft pronouncement on illegal immigrants, calling the action of those immigrants who broke the law and came to the United States illegally an “act of love,” not a felony (link). So, why should the audience trust him when he claims he’ll be the sort of leader whose stances will be firm? There is no reason at all.

No candidate wins an election based on his or her weaknesses. Moreover, no candidate can reach out to an unlimited range of different audiences with different priorities and ask their support. Instead of pretending he is not part of the establishment who wants to beat the establishment (he is and cannot,) he should have argued from the beginning of his campaign that he is a game changer and compromiser who wants to unite the country again – the candidate who has an outstanding record as a conservative governor, able to build bridges in a partisan government. He could have argued that the country is going to be divided and he has the best plan for bringing together moderate conservatives to win the nomination and approach a broader base of moderate and conservative Democrats in the general election.

Time is running out for Bush, and Marco Rubio will be the establishment-backed candidate after his impressive showing in Iowa. New Hampshire is his last chance, and still even there Marco Rubio is a strong contender. To beat him, the Jeb Bush campaign should remind the audience that first, Rubio is not an appropriate choice for the presidency because he missed more Senate voting periods than any of his colleagues. Why should the American people trust someone who is not doing their present job as senator to be the president? Second, he needs to remind his audience the last time the American people sent a first term senator to the Oval Office, Barack Obama became the president and disaster struck for conservatives. The American people should not make the same mistake twice.

These are two main messages which could find a broad audience, especially for Super Tuesday and subsequent contests in which more states with moderate Republican majorities will cast their ballots. These are the only messages on which a key part of the party base is aligned with Jeb Bush and for which they will consider him a credible messenger. For another faction of the base, he is a fake Republican and part (or inheritor) of the establishment who will make the country weak while Cruz and Trump promise to make it great again.


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