Most candidates focus an incredible amount of their campaign efforts on developing name recognition. Jeb Bush’s name recognition is proving to be a giant millstone around his campaign and he seems to be sinking before he gets started.
First in a series covering the “elephant in the room” problems for the early field of Republican Primary potentials.
As reported in The Weekly Standard, “[Jeb’s] polling numbers are anemic.”
Poll numbers this early in the primary season have a different reflection than they do as we get into the heart of the primary. They are definitely not a reflection of who will win or who will lose, but they are very important for many other reasons.
Early polls give a lesser known candidate a necessary starting point as to the work they have cut out. However, to a well known candidate, these early polls can really define the Positive Intensity that a candidate has.
Positive Intensity asks the question, “Out of the number of people who know who a candidate is, how many like that candidate?”
For example: If Dennis Michael Lynch, a possible candidate with almost no name recognition, and a relatively well known candidate like Rand Paul, both scored 5% in a national poll, what would that say? That would say that Rand is in trouble and that as Dennis’ name recognition grows, so will his poll numbers.
We saw this with Herman Cain in 2011. Even in the early days, when very few even knew his name, Cain scored higher than any candidate in Gallup’s Positive Intensity poll. As his name recognition grew, so did his poll numbers.
Ron Paul scored consistently much lower in PI. Thus, despite a huge effort by a very dedicated grassroots, his poll numbers remained relatively low throughout the primary even with a pretty high name recognition.
Recent polls are saying that although many know who Jeb Bush is, not many are picking him as their first, or even second choice.
Jeb’s name problem is two fold. The first is huge. Even among those who might agree with and like him, simply going down the road of a third Bush term is just not digestible. Whether they like Jeb as a candidate, or not. Whether they liked Bush 41 and 43, or not. They just do not want to go there.
The second problem has to do with the legacies of his father and brother.
Illegitimate or not, Bush 43 had some serious baggage as he left the White House. He was one of the most unpopular departing presidents in US history. A CBS News/New York Times poll gave him a final approval rating of 22%.
Having Bush 41 as a father has it’s baggage as well. George H.W. Bush lost his re-election to a second term and was blamed for a weak economy.
Although Jeb’s personal name does not have the same recognition as his famous last name, the fact that he is presently flailing in the polls is a huge problem for his campaign. His campaign team has been fully aware of this problem and has purposely worked hard to distance the name Jeb from the name Bush.
As Philip Rucker points out in the Washington Post:
“The campaign stickers… say, “Jeb!” with no hint of the Bush name that comes after.”
Jeb himself is also fully aware of this hurdle. Responding to an audience in Detroit recently concerning his “name” problem, he replied, “If I have any degree of self-awareness, this would be the place where it might want to be applied.”
So just what have the early polls been telling us? It is important to note that one set of poll numbers, no matter how accurate, never give a full picture. But when you put a lot of polls together, they can be very telling.
Let’s start with the recent poll that Matt Drudge did from the Drudge Report. Although, definitely coming from a pretty conservative audience, the poll garnered close to 450,000 participants. That is huge in the polling industry, unscientific or not.
The poll that included 12 possible candidates, gave a moderately known candidate, Scott Walker, 44 % (199,095 votes) of the vote to Jeb’s 5% (18,864 votes). That puts Bush in 7th place behind Palin (5% ), Trump (5%), Carson (8%), Paul (12%), and Cruz (13%).
That is a horrendous number for Bush. Even taking into account that this is a totally unscientific vote, this gap between a prospective candidate who is relatively new to the political discussion, and the man who has been discussed as the frontrunner for a few years now is very telling.
There is also a recent Field poll that was done in California. This is significant because California is the home of the moderate voter. Although it was late in the primary season, Romney took almost 80% of the Republican primary vote in 2011. Field has Bush at 16% with Walker again in the lead at 18%. It is a small poll, sampling only 237 likely voters. But it still is very telling in a state that you would expect a candidate like Bush to be much stronger in at this point.
Then there is Iowa and New Hampshire. Although there is much discussion as to the significance of these two states in the grand scheme of the primary season, one would fully expect the candidate who was coronated as the frontrunner by many beginning the day after the last Presidential election to at least be doing moderately well.
One recent Gravis Marketing poll, comprising 608 registered voters in New Hampshire, has Bush in 2nd place, but at 16%, far behind Walker at 23%.
Real Clear Politics has an average of 5 polls taken in NH over the month of February with Bush (16.2%) in a very close second with Walker (16.6). At first glance one might say that is not too bad. But when you take into consideration the huge gap between Walker and Bush in name recognition, as well as length of time in the political discourse, it spells huge trouble for Bush.
Things are worse among Iowa Caucus voters. Real Clear Politics, averaging 4 polls taken in late Jan and early Feb, has Bush (12%) behind both Walker (16.3%) and Huckabee (12.8%).
The most recent of those polls, another Gravis poll, has Bush in 3rd place at 10% slightly behind Rand Paul, also at 10%, and Walker at 24%.
Both Gravis polls were conducted shortly after Mitt Romney announced he was not going to enter the race. Bush’s numbers remained relatively unchanged from previous polls while Walker rose significantly. This suggests that Bush is not benefiting from the Romney voter pool. That in itself is bad news for “establishment candidate” Bush, and is another discussion entirely.
There have been many other polls over the last few months and we could surely go on with many of them. Needless to say, there has been a definite pattern in most of them showing a severe weakness in the candidate who has been discussed as the most likely winner of the 2015 primary season.
Can things change? Sure! But what can Bush do at this point to make a significant impact? Could he give a “knock it out of the ballpark” speech? I guess he could, but I don’t see that as likely. Could a significant problem bring the current frontrunner Scott Walker down from his high numbers? Of course! But will that benefit Bush? I again do not see that as very likely.
Can a huge war-chest help him? We know that he will not have any problem raising money, but we live in an era where hard work on behalf of a strong grassroots can nullify big money. Just ask Eric Cantor! (7 things Eric Cantor spent more on than David Brat spent on his entire campaign)
I know we live in an age where not too long ago, John McCain held out through numerous problems from the very beginning to become the winner of the Republican Primary. But from where I am sitting it looks to me like Jeb Bush is sitting in a big hole after years of being called the most likely uncontested frontrunner.
It just seems to me, that at this point Jeb should be standing, even at this early stage, much taller than he obviously is. But we will see! I’ve been wrong before!