Last week was one of the roughest periods of Jeb Bush’s political career – perhaps even the lowest point. The weeks and weeks of criticism regarding cratering poll numbers and lackluster campaigning boiled over after the CNBC debate, in which Jeb got thoroughly upstaged and embarrassed by Marco Rubio, the man he considers his chief obstacle to the Republican nomination. The campaign necessarily shifted into emergency panic mode, with reporters asking if Jeb was going to drop out and the pundit class generally agreeing that he was toast.
But, according to Team Jeb, while things may seem dark now, the comeback is coming, and we’ll see it if we just show a tiny bit of patience.
The political press isn’t Jeb’s chief concern right now – it’s the donors. He has to provide them a reason to stick with his campaign and not go taking their checkbooks to Rubio or John Kasich or Chris Christie or whoever else may seem more politically viable. And so Jeb is rolling out the latest version of himself, as represented by his new slogan: Jeb Can Fix It.
The slogan was met with instant and near-universal derision because it’s obviously desperate and it has zero semblance of truth given that Jeb is presiding over a flailing and ineffective campaign apparatus. But he laid out the “Jeb Can Fix It” case in a series of speeches in his home state of Florida, presenting himself as the one candidate with the “experience” and the sunny optimism needed to fix literally all the problems in Washington, which he vows to “turn on its head.” (That’s a decidedly less threatening message than that of late-stage Scott Walker, who promised to “wreak havoc” on D.C.)
A key part of the rebrand is (I can’t believe I’m writing this) an e-book called “Reply All.” It’s a collection of Jeb’s emails from his time as governor of Florida that “illustrates his unique, hands-on leadership style and the tremendous record of achievement he compiled as the governor of America's 4th largest state,” according to the Amazon page, where you can buy this publication for $15.
Appearing on “Meet the Press” this past weekend, Jeb plugged the e-book, saying: “I’m releasing a book on Monday called ‘Reply All’ and it’s really the essence of the servant leadership that I had as governor of the state.” And "Reply All" was damn near the first thing Jeb mentioned in his speech in Tampa yesterday.
“Last year I decided that I wanted to share my story with people across the country, so I wrote a book,” Jeb said, delivering the setup. “Well, really, I didn’t ‘write’ it, not in the traditional sense. I emailed it!” There’s your punch line, which in turn set up the conclusion: “They used to call me the e-governor.” I checked this out and, yes, it is true: Jeb Bush was referred to as the “e-governor” back in the days of the Internet’s youth when every word had an “e” crudely soldered to it to make it sound “internetty.” What we have here is Jeb Bush reliving his glory days as a totally cutting-edge public servant from the late '90s. He was an early user of something literally everyone uses now, and he demands recognition of this fact. Jeb is a hipster.
(Also, if you’re keeping track of such things, Jeb said that he decided last year to compile this e-book of decade-old electronic correspondence that he’s hyping on the campaign trail, which is compelling evidence that he’d already decided to run for president in 2014, which means he spent the first half of 2015 lying about not having made a decision whether to run so he could dodge laws preventing him from raising money for his super PAC. Unless, of course, Jeb just felt that America needed a curated collection of his old emails for whatever reason. Hi, FEC! Having a good election cycle?)
The e-book is a celebration of Jeb’s prolific emailing. It’s his old emails. You get to read Jeb Bush’s old emails. You get to pay 15 American dollars to read Jeb Bush’s old emails. All those emails are available for free on the Internet already, but now we have the privilege of paying money to know which ones Jeb’s people think make him look best. Will the wonders of e-commerce never cease?
Of course, the emails that Jeb’s people feel are the most Jebbish are, per the Washington Post, fantastically dull:
Readers hoping for fresh insight into Bush's personal life and famous family will be disappointed. Are there interactions with his famous parents? Barely. New information on how he tracked the 2000 Florida ballot recount? Not really. Copies of e-mails he sent to former president George W. Bush, his brother? Nope.
"Since this book is the story of my governorship, I chose not to include personal email exchanges," Jeb Bush explains in the book's foreword.
Instead, he focuses most of the book on his deep personal interest in state policy: "I hope you enjoy reading about medical liability tort reform, because it was one of my top priorities for 2003," he tells readers who make it to Page 430 of the 730-page book.
All this for $15! Can you believe it?
So voters are left to choose which Jeb they find more inspiring as they rally around him for the eventual comeback. Will they go with Jeb Can Fix It, the man who says he can fix things while his campaign falls to pieces around him? Or will they be enthralled by Hotmail Jeb, the hero who archived all his old messages about tort reform?