As the Nevada primary spelled the end of Jeb Bush’s candidacy, I remained fascinated by a tweet he posted just days earlier, first for its content, second for its feedback, and third for the tactic’s anemic impact.
The former Florida governor posted a photo of a handgun with “Gov. Jeb Bush” engraved on it, with the simple caption “America.”
Was this tweet an attempt to get much-needed attention as his campaign faced extinction? Was is designed to reinforce his relationship with GOP conservatives, gun owners and the National Rifle Association? Bush told a reporter, “The purpose was we went to a gun manufacturing facility where lots of jobs are created, high-wage jobs. And I received a gun and I was honored to have it.”
The Twitter feedback was on one hand predictably supportive and on the other hand predictably angry. The Brady Campaign, a gun safety lobbying group, tweeted, “America. Where #gunviolence kills 33,000 people per year. Thanks for the reminder @JebBush.” The NRA tweeted “America” accompanied by a graphic of the Bill of Rights. Lauren Olin posted “America” with a photo of a crying mother outside Sandy Hook Elementary School. Glenn Greenwald re-tweeted the photo and added, “Ponder all the psychological anxieties and insecurities that would cause someone to post this.”
Eight months ago, Jeb Bush seemed destined to become the third family member to lead a presidential ticket. But a candidate must connect to voters by using the power of words, images, ideas, and the projection of leadership. Bush’s primary numbers had remained in single digits despite spending tens of millions of dollars. Obviously, his campaign became desperate for attention, and so this potentially controversial image and caption was tweeted to grab headlines. However, it was too late. The tweet barely received coverage because interest in his campaign had become about as strong as his poll numbers.
Unlike his father and brother, Jeb Bush was unable to break through the competition by communicating effectively, despite well thought-out, realistic positions on major issues. This last ditch effort, a controversial publicity stunt to gain attention, was clearly as ineffective. Your thoughts?