The falling image of Jeb Bush: 3 things PR pros can learn
A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush fell to seven percent of the votes within his party. When he first started his run for president, Bush was leading the GOP polls; now, he has fallen to fifth place.
The results of this poll doesn’t mean that Bush is guaranteed to lose the GOP presidential nomination, but it shows that he has lost traction with voters over the last few months. What can we learn about public relations based on recent moves Bush has made while running for high office?
Watch your word choice
When making a statement, it’s important to think about your phrasing in order to properly get your message across. On Thursday, Bush was asked about his plan to reach out to members of the black community, and his response caused a big controversy.
“Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and ‘get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff,’” said Bush.
Bush’s comment was seen as him stereotyping the black community by making assumptions that they all want handouts. This may or may not have been Bush’s intent, but his statement was perceived by the public as having racist connotations.
Avoid attack ads
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump released an attack ad that criticized Bush’s stance on immigration. Bush responded by calling the video a “complete mischaracterization” of his ideology. Had Bush stopped there, he could have been seen as taking the high road while also discrediting his political opponent’s video. Instead, he responded with an attack ad against Trump.
Bush’s video quoted Trump twice saying, “I lived in New York City and Manhattan all my life,” which led to confusion about why this was a facet of Trump worthy of attacking. The video also pointed out the liberal viewpoints that his opponent has held in the past, which could potentially get Trump votes from some Democrats after seeing they may agree on some issues. Attack ads can be counterproductive and cause voters to view the person that released the video in a negative light, rather than the ad’s intended target.
Trump received a lot of criticism after he failed to correct an unidentified man at his rally that stated President Barack Obama wasn’t an American and that he’s a Muslim. Rather than ignoring this misinformation about the president, Bush commented on the false claims at a Mackinac Republican Leadership conference dinner on Friday. Bush stated, “and by the way, he’s an American, he’s a Christian.”
By correcting the man’s false statement, Bush showed that he was willing to stand up against incorrect claims, even if it means defending a member of his opposing party. By making political moves that aren’t always self-serving, Bush’s image could turn around, making him a bigger contender in the Republican party.
Can Bush turn things around before the Republican party chooses their front-runner? What can Bush do to change his image? Leave a comment or talk to me on Twitter @Karbowski_Devon.