Bush was met with complete silence after giving what the Times described as a “fiery” speech at the Hanover Inn, where he vowed to prioritize national security as President.
“I won’t be out here blowharding, talking a big game without backing it up,” he said, as quoted by the Times.
“Please clap,” he pleaded as the audience remained quiet.
According to the Times, the crowd laughed before finally breaking out into applause.
The late Fred Thompson had the same problem: firing up a crowd. But one of the things that any politician on the stump — or stand-up comic — should know is how to read the audience and gauge your delivery to them. It’s known by various terms, but I call it “getting the room.”
Jeb Bush is probably one of the smarter candidates on the Republican side, and he certainly does a better job with the language and syntax than previous examples from his own family or the ranks of candidates, so it must be something else that is keeping him in single digits.
First, the “room” isn’t just the people sitting in the ballroom at the Hanover Inn. It’s the entire collection of rooms, of the party he’s trying to win over, and they’re not buying his soft-spoken and comparatively tame rhetoric. Watch the clip of his remarks; describing it as “fiery” compared to others in the race is like saying ketchup should come with a warning label for hotness. So in a roomful of shouters and tantrum-throwers, he’s the silent one. That’s not saying that’s a bad thing; Dog knows we need less noise. But that’s not what the Republican base wants. They want a demagogue douchebag who will say anything, including baldly racist and hateful things to fire up the anger, and that’s just not Jeb’s style.
The second thing is that it’s painfully clear that Jeb Bush does not want to go through this to be president. If he could just fill out an application, sit down with the admissions committee, show his legacy, and get his dorm assignment, he’d be much more suited to the task. But he clearly can’t muster the energy to go out and fight for it; it’s as if it’s beneath him. He wants it handed to him. Not for nothing, he’s also been witness in the last twenty-five years to what his father and his brother went through, and I’d be really surprised if there wasn’t a part of him that’s saying, “Who needs it?” But somewhere, somehow, someone put it in his head that he should run, and rather than disappoint either his family or the dwindling few who make up what’s left of the Republican Establishment, he’s doing his duty; the reluctant prince who would much rather be doing anything else.
No wonder he has to ask for the applause; he doesn’t even sound like he’d give it to himself.
(The title should really boost my Google hits.)