Sobriety with Jeb

Posted: October 11, 2015 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Jeb Bush speaking at the Iowa Caucus Consortium Candidate Forum. Photo by Zachary Blevins.

Jeb Bush speaks at the Iowa Caucus Consortium Candidate Forum. Photo by Zachary Blevins.

When it comes to Iowa politics, the whole ordeal can be boiled down to one central question when voters make up their minds: Would I get a beer with this candidate? Candidates are forced to exercise retail politics in Iowa, a very personable approach to campaigning that is the antithesis of mass mailers and television ads. In order to be successful, the candidate needs to be approachable and inviting.

In my opinion, Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, did not succeed in his appearance at the Greater Des Moines Partnership Iowa Caucus Consortium Candidate Forum last week. Like a standard candidate event, Bush was introduced by the sponsor, performed his 40-minute presentation, and finished by answering a few questions before wrapping up the event. From the beginning to end, the event felt stale and dry. It may have been the fact that the event was at 8:30 a.m. or that almost the entire audience was significantly older than me, but the energy in the room never sparked and it was apparent the entire time.

While this is not necessarily a deciding factor in whether Bush is qualified to be president, Bush needs to electrify his supporters to make sure they show come Caucus night. ABC Nightline anchor Juju Chang, at a lecture at Iowa State University, said Bush is at a “make it or break it” point in his campaign. Chang states that in a sea of candidates, Bush needs to establish himself as a serious candidate and frame his own story rather than letting his fellow candidates define him.

With this in mind, I believe that Bush needs to rethink his strategy in Iowa. His current techniques, while potentially successful in other states, are not effective in Iowa. Caucus goers need to feel a strong connection to the candidate when they leave an event, something that was lacking here.

I had the opportunity to ask Bush a question in the Q&A portion and completely understood this need for a connection with the candidate. I could tell that we were looking each other in the eyes from across the room, but it felt cold, empty, and disconnected. While some might think this is due to ideological difference between Bush and me, I know it is possible to feel that connection based on other interactions I’ve had with even more conservative candidates. For instance, I met Mike Huckabee, a candidate whose views I agree with even less than Bush, and left his book signing thinking he was a personable individual and that I could see myself getting a beer with. For Bush, I can’t say the same.

I’m sure that there will be additional opportunities for Bush to change my current perception of him; however, not all Iowans are as politically nerdy as I am, so this may have been some voters defining interaction with Bush. Ad if people are not passionate about Bush, they won’t make the effort to travel through the cold weather to get to their caucus precinct come Feb. 1.


IMG_1200Blevins is a junior politics and strategic political communications double major at Drake. He avidly follows Postmodern Jukebox, is a strong proponent of the color orange, and can often be found relaxing in a hammock if it’s a nice day out. Follow him on Twitter.