When the story of Jeb Bush‘s presidential campaign is written, what will have likely constituted the fatal blow is the devastating description of the former Florida governor as “low-energy” by Donald Trump.
In a video released in September, Trump implored Bush supporters to “wake up” in a comical spin on a sleep-aide commercial mocking Bush. The video’s release came right after a woman was filmed nodding off behind Bush as he spoke at a rally.
Of all the negatives one would have expected to be hung on Bush’s candidacy – he’s the brother of George W. Bush, he supports Common Core, etc. – you would never have predicted that the governor who spent eight years in Florida burnishing his reputation as a pace-setting conservative would be tagged as “low-energy.”
But the zinger stuck and, honestly, Bush has never recovered.
Why did Trump’s jab work so well? How is that Trump is able to expose a rival’s weakness that no one else sees?
We know Trump did not study Akido, so it’s not that.
I don’t know what it is, but I finally figured out who Trump reminds me of: the Bad Breaker Upper from “Seinfeld.”
In an episode titled “The Andrea Doria,” Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) breaks up with a blind date, but not before he calls her “a big head.” Of course, Elaine never thought that she had “a big head,” just as Bush never thought of himself as “low-energy.” But, like with Bush, the cutting criticism of Elaine sticks. Both a cab driver and a passer-by remark on it.
Elaine decides she must meet again with her blind date to show him she doesn’t care about his comment. If that doesn’t work, she promises to jam “a fork in his forehead.” This is the political equivalent of Bush clamoring to debate Trump one-on-one and releasing a TV ad calling Trump him a “jerk.”
Unfortunately, Bush’s responses to Trump have been as effective as, to use another reference from “Seinfeld,” George Constanza‘s comeback to a rival that “… the Jerk Store called, and they’re running out of you.”
Fortunately for Bush, Trump has moved on to a new target, Ted Cruz, who the Donald jabs for being born in Canada. Until that attack, little seemed to faze the U.S. Senator from Texas. Yet, Trump is clearly in Cruz’ head space. Just as Trump got under Rubio’s skin with his derision that the Florida freshman is “sweaty.“
One might conclude that Trump really doesn’t believe the things he says, that he knows that Bush is not low-energy and that Cruz is a true citizen of the United States. He really can’t mean the things he says, right.
Well, as Elaine would say, Trump says the mean things you don’t mean, but he means them.