Here’s an eight-point plan to energize Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign:
▪ Add another exclamation mark to your posters and bumper stickers, so that they look like this: “Jeb!!” This will put you ahead on the charisma meter because most other candidates don’t even use one exclamation point on their campaign signs!
▪ Provide unlimited Starbucks at all town-hall meetings. Free coffee would be one way to make sure your supporters appear enthusiastic and alert while you’re explaining your position on, say, Common Core.
To attract more young people, offer cans of Red Bull to anyone willing to jump up and down waving a “Jeb!!” sign.
▪ Play cooler music at your campaign rallies. Donald Trump uses an Aerosmith jam to rock his audience, so why not Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones for you? The band members are about the same age as the average Republican primary voter, so let’s make that connection!
▪ Work on your wardrobe. Lose the baby-blue Brooks Brothers shirt, OK? And taking off the necktie doesn’t make you look like a casual dude — it just makes you look like a banker who’s getting ready to change a flat tire.
Rick Perry started wearing eyeglasses to make people think he wasn’t so dumb. What if you started wearing blue jeans to make people think you aren’t so wonky? Unpressed stonewashed jeans: Would that blow their buttoned-down minds? Khakis are what they’d be expecting from a Bush but jeans and Skechers? Boom!!
▪ Tone down the whole Florida thing. At this point, everybody in the country knows you were the governor of Florida. Endlessly bragging about it doesn’t seem to be working. That’s probably because too many prospective voters have either been to Florida or read enough wild stories to know that it’s not a model of honest, efficient government.
It’s also not a particularly tranquil place to live. These days, folks in Iowa or New Hampshire hear the word “Florida,” and they think of drug shootouts, Medicare fraud, sinkholes and giant pythons.
While on the campaign trail, you’d be better off speaking in broad terms about your experience as the two-term leader of a dynamic, fast-growing Southern state. Just leave it at that.
▪ At the next television debate, don’t stand next to Trump. This is not an issue of height or hair. You definitely are taller than he is, and you obviously don’t have hair plugs taken from an orangutan’s armpit.
However, Trump is so loud and bombastic that he makes those around him fade into the background. The best way to distance yourself from this preening gasbag is to physically distance yourself.
Demand a podium at the farthest end of the row of candidates, preferably beside Rand Paul or Bobby Jindal, if either of them makes the cut. It’s impossible not to look presidential standing next to those guys.
▪ Start spending serious money on ads. In six months your super PAC raised $103 million, more than any of your opponents. It’s ridiculous, really, how much you’ve got in the bank.
But now the wealthy donors who gave you all that dough are watching your poll numbers drop and wondering whether they made the right choice.
If you don’t turn things around pretty soon, you could wake up with George Pataki and Jim Gilmore nipping at your heels. Who, by the way, are actual Republican candidates.
So use some of that huge stash and crank out a few ads, fast. Go warm and fuzzy at first — generic family stuff. If you’ve got a dog, put it in the commercial.
Next, aim for the seasoned, thoughtful, hardworking Jeb — rolling-up-the-sleeves type of footage, though please, not in the Brooks Brothers.
▪ Get mad. Or at least pretend to be mad.
Waiting for Trump to flame out might seem like a sound strategy, but in the meantime you’d better lock up second place. Would it hurt to fight back a little harder? The jerk slurred your wife’s national heritage, yet you never braced him about it during the first Republican candidate debate, when he’s standing right beside you.
Sometimes there’s a fine line between mild-mannered and wimpy. No one’s expecting you to morph into an electrifying personality at age 62, but they do expect evidence of a pulse.
Come on, Jeb! Or even better, Jeb!!
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Reach him at email@example.com.