Jeb Bush: An Exceptionally Strong Performance

Analyzing the style, substance, and impact of the former Florida governor's presidential announcement.

Jeb Bush Launches 2016 Bid: How'd He Do?

Style: Offered more warmth, more emotion, more smiles, and more dynamism than he’s shown in public so far this cycle. As the speech progressed and his mood relaxed, seemed actually to be enjoying himself. Supremely comfortable with his message—the same one he has offered since entering public life.

Was dressed casually in shirtsleeves and no tie, an ensemble that suited his anti-Washington message. Predictably, delivered a portion of the speech in fluent Spanish. Adeptly used video monitors placed towards the back of the hall for his teleprompter, rather than the typical screens flanking the podium. Took on Hillary Clinton directly by name a few times, most pointedly on religious freedom and foreign policy, to the delight of the crowd. Paid a warm welcome to mother Barbara Bush and a tender tribute to wife Columba Bush and their kids. Gave a subtle nod to his brother George W. at the conclusion, by asking his audience for their votes (a classic 43 practice).

Substance: Offered surprisingly few details. Touted school choice and limits for teacher union power when discussing education, but otherwise spent more time recalling his record as governor of Florida than describing specific federal programs or changes he would pursue as president.

Best moment: His vehement tone and focus when declaring himself a candidate showed he means business.

Worst moment: The foreign policy section often sounded rote, both in text and elocution.

Overall: Given the non-stop CW muttering about a stalled presidential effort (along with middling poll numbers to back up the charge), he needed to give an exceptionally strong performance – and succeeded. Buoyed by an enthusiastic crowd composed of many genuine, long-time supporters, he gave the best speech he’s unfurled since beginning his White House quest, with‎ an energy level totally different than anything he’s demonstrated so far. Flexed dormant gubernatorial muscles to flaunt his natural leadership style, mirrored by a solid script, from which he smoothly strayed when appropriate. There will be pressure from nervous supporters and staffers that he maintain this fresh assertive determination, but he at last indicated he has the stomach and the fire for the tough nomination—and general—fights.

Note: The overall grade is not an average of the style and substance grades, but takes into account other aspects of the announcement, such as staging and crowd reaction. In addition, a candidate’s overall grade reflects the degree to which the candidate’s standing in the race is improved by the event and performance.

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