The Jeb we need to see tonight

Governor Jeb Bush, your country needs you.

When you take the debate stage tonight, you will be in a different position than you likely imagined a year ago. You haven’t come close to victory in either of the first primary states, and your poll performance has lagged for months. Some are calling for you to leave the race. But there is work to be done, and no other candidate seems willing to do it. The mantle of service falls to your shoulders.

Donald Trump needs to go.

You know this, which is probably why this commercial exists. Commercials alone won’t do it, though.

Here’s the real problem: righteous indignation is the most effective emotion a politician can evoke when seeking support. Voters are angry, and they want candidates who are share a controlled version of that anger. Trump’s messages have resonated because of that fact. But there’s another maxim of politics: Don’t get mad except on purpose.

The public doesn’t need to see Trump angry, they need to see him lose his temper and behave like the manchild he is.

Let’s be honest here, Governor Bush: You are probably a long shot for the nomination. Also, you come off like a high school student council nerd frustrated that the class clown got enough people to write him in that he can blow up your weekly meetings. Those two points make you the perfect person to execute this plan.

Step 1: Debate prep

Don’t shave. You need to go into this debate with a healthy fice o’clock shadow. Skip the tie and consider jeans. And – this is important – get a little buzzed but not too drunk. You will need to deliver a coherent message, and slurred speech won’t help. But you will need to loosen up a bit.

Step 2: Show everyone the “New Jeb”

Saunter out on the stage like you own the place. Dole out high fives all around, maybe even to a few people in the front row. Give fist bumps to the moderators. Set the tone that you will be a different person tonight – laid back and at ease. Smirk the whole time.

Step 3: Call out the loser

Make frequent reference to Trump’s long list of business failures and bankruptcies. Trump’s defense so far has been to claim he “uses the system” to protect assets, and to use that as evidence that the system is broken. Call him out on being a glorified three-card-monty player and remind everyone that “using the system” still means you failed. Suggested line: “The only thing you were good at was hosting a reality show where you pretend to be a good businessman. And then your ratings started to suck so you ran for President.”

Step 4: Badger badger badger

This is where you really have to break character. Trump has upended the rules of the campaign, so you have to upend the rules of the debate. Consider interjecting during his answers (“Nope,” “That’s not true,” and or “Wow, that’s a whopper!”) to shake his focus. Laugh in his face. Call him a wimp, a loser, a failure, a carnival barker, and a giant orange baby. (Definitely call him a giant orange baby. Maybe make some cooing and goo-goo noises, too.) Even if it means crashing the debate.

Eventually, Trump will lose his cool and blow up. This would be a good time to have a baby’s pacifier on hand to offer to him as he is melting down. Props are usually a bad idea, but this would make for an excellent GIF.

Remember, Governor Bush, this is a kamikaze mission, so even if you pick up a negative image, it’s ok. But if you succeed, you might find there are a lot of conservatives who are happy you stood up to Trump in a way your father and brother never would have been able to. Maybe there’s redemption on the other side of this. Your current path is certainly a dead end.

Heck, even if you just utter the words “giant orange baby,” you’ll have my vote.





Debate recap and a farewell to Walker

Beverly Hallberg was super-nice enough to record this week’s Crummy Little Podcast right after the last GOP debate, and you can see some of her predictions are coming true already. She said people would start dropping off, and there goes Scott Walker.

Walker’s abrupt exit still leaves the Republican field crowded, and the big crowd includes a few well-funded candidates. Past primaries have served as surmountable obstacles for early favorites, providing just enough resistance to make the smart-money candidate break a sweat. This time, there isn’t a favorite, and a good chunk of the party finds the supposed front-runner less than ideal.

That’s a recipe for a brokered convention. If any four of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and John Kasich come into the Republican convention with a hefty amount of delegates. Trump has a plurality, but there’s no majority. How does that play out?

The easiest answer is the non-Trumps dropping out and throwing their support behind a consensus candidate. And if you want to be that consensus candidate, now is the time to drop out.

None of the candidates have lost any votes, yet – their greatest crimes have been poor poll performance. They could credibly blame lackluster fundraising for their exits (“money in politics” is an effective bogeyman). They can hope that their failures of 2015 are forgotten by the summer of 2016. The two who have dropped out so far – Walker and Rick Perry – boasted very successful gubernatorial records.

Could the busy, noisy, crowded field that drowns out the voices of accomplished candidates be the factor that re-opens the door next year?

Well… no. It’s probably more likely to be a House of Cards story arc than a real-life convention drama. But if there was a cycle where something this bizarre could happen, 2016 might be it.

Crummy Little Podcast Episode 2: Beverly Hallberg

District Media Group Founder and President Beverly Hallberg is one of the savviest media professionals in Washington, D.C., and she did a great job previewing the upcoming Republican debate on this week’s Crummy Little Podcast. She also talks about why Hillary Clinton isn’t connecting with voters (and why Bernie Sanders is). There’s even some baseball talk at the end.

Download the podcast here or check it out on iTunes.

The Republican debate is set up all wrong

No kidding, right? But there are two big problems with the debate to talk about in this weekend’s post at Communities Digital News.

In reality, fitting a giant candidate field into an hour long debate is a square peg-round hole problem. The networks, sponsors, and even the Republican party are trying to figure out how to handle a historically large field using the same promotion vehicles they used when only a handful of people could afford to mount a primary campaign.

It may not happen every single cycle, but it will happen again. Networks need to use the 2016 primary season to figure out how to handle it.

At least AP saved some money by not showing up

The Associated Press and Reuters joined Mitt Romney in not attending this week’s Republican quasi-Presidential debate.  A story written by the AP covering the AP’s decision quoted an AP official:

The opening stages of an event as important as the presidential selection process should be as accessible as possible to all forms of journalism,” said Michael Oreskes, the AP’s senior managing editor. “These candidates want to lead the country. The country has a right to see them from various angles, not only where the TV cameras are positioned.

Remember, Journalism school students, there’s no reason you can’t quote yourself in a story you write about yourself.  That’s completely fine.

The AP isn’t clear exactly how the rights of the voting public are trampled by Fox News in restricting still photos during the televised event, but not by the AP in refusing to cover the event at all.

The only potential problem is that there will be no embarrassing pictures capturing candidates with their faces scrunched up or with mouths gaping ajar while they pronounce words like “sure” or “capital.” The restriction on pictures would be horrible for the AP if they sold pictures.

Oh, wait, that’s right: they sell pictures.

It is also tough to stomach the spin used by both AP and Reuters in holding up their readers and news consumers like human shields as the aggrieved parties.  In reality it was the news organizations who were slighted by the picture ban.  This isn’t a First Amendment problem; it is similar in that such cases the “public right to know” is used as shorthand for “the news company’s right to publish.”

But luckily for the voters, the AP is pretty much irrelevant as a news gathering organization anyway.  By using their platform for political speech, they become even less so.

A promise is a promise…

John McCain has promised to bring up Barack Obama’s relationship with 1960’s activist/terrorist William Ayers in their debate this week.

I guess that’s good, but on the off chance that Obama has a glib reply prepared, McCain may want to find something else to ask his opponent. Some things I would like to see discussed:

We’re losing the debates

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden debated last night. Like millions of Americans, I made sure I was in front of a TV to tune into Pitt’s 26-21 upset of No. 10 South Florida.

What made the football game more interesting was that even though I was rooting for Pitt, I didn’t have any idea what either side was going to do – much less what the outcome would be. If you’ve made up your mind on a candidate, chances are the debate won’t change your mind. Worse yet, if you’ve followed the race to this point – and it has been a very long race to this point – you have a good idea of what each veep candidate will say in advance.

Early in the third quarter of the football game, Pitt tried a fake punt. It came from out of nowhere. What would the equivalent of a fake punt be in a Presidential or Vice Presidential debate? Joe Biden calling for free market solutions to the financial crisis? Sarah Palin accepting Hugh Hefner’s offer?

Debates have become microcosms of the campaigns – in other words, scripted personality contests that only happen every four years. And for the campaigns, that’s the right move, because they have such a finite amount of time to discuss issues and ideas. The American people are stuck voting for candidates based on personality rather than ideas.

Debates would be more useful if they were more frequent. In addition to holding a handful of candidates’ debates just before an election, it might be fun to see monthly or weekly debates between conservatives and liberals on various issues. At the risk of dating myself, this worked well about 15 years ago, when Ross Perot and then-thin Vice President Al Gore debated NAFTA on Larry King Live.

I’d like to see an hour long debate between and the Heritage Foundation about whether we should replace our income tax with a national sales tax. I’d like to see the AFL-CIO debate National Right to Work over the proposal to remove secret ballots from union elections.

This isn’t going to turn our Presidential election into forums of philosophy, but it might help engage people more in the political process. And, let’s be honest, those 24-hour-a-day news channels don’t have enough news as it is. This would help them kill an hour or so a week.