By Lynn R. Mitchell
The positive reviews continue to come in about Governor Jeb Bush’s debate performance Tuesday night. Ed O’Keefe in the Washington Post agreed with other pundits that Jeb had a good night (see Jeb Bush had a good night. But he still needs better ones):
Jeb Bush did something Tuesday night that he’s not done before on a presidential debate stage: He butted in.
“It’s my turn,” he told Ohio Gov. John Kasich as moderators attempted to ask him a question.
“I got about four minutes in the last debate,” he added. “I’m going to get my question right now.”
The former Florida governor — previously averse to the advice of media trainers and the need to speak in soundbites — delivered a stronger performance in the fourth Republican presidential debate. He fought more aggressively for air time. He used more personal anecdotes. He lightly mocked front-runner Donald Trump. And he relentlessly criticized President Obama and Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton — something few other candidates bothered to do. [emphasis added]
After spending time in recent days with veteran GOP media trainer Jon Kraushar to sharpen his delivery, Bush associates were visibly relieved by the results, believing that he had pulled himself back from the edge.
Campaigning in Iowa on Wednesday, Bush conceded that the professional advice helped. Kraushar, he said, “brought some logic to being able to say what you think. Just don’t get tripped up with the questions.”
But he laughed off suggestions that Kraushar is also helping remake his image: “He’s certainly not an image-maker, you’re looking at him, man,” he said looking down at his blazer and jeans.
And he admitted that he’s still adjusting to norms of modern-day debating.
Al Cardenas, a longtime Bush supporter, provided a remarkably blunt assessment of his friend’s performance: “Two things happened: He applied the tourniquet and applied it successfully. And number two, he gave the reassurance to the donors, the activists and all the folks involved in the campaign, reassured them that they made the right choice to begin with and re-energized them.”
Bush benefited from debate rules that permitted candidates up to 90 seconds to respond to questions. The change gave Bush breathing room to talk more expansively, like he does at his free-wheeling town hall meetings.
“I think we need to repeal every rule that Barack Obama has in terms of work in progress, every one of them. And start over,” he said when asked about ways to accelerate economic growth.
Buoyed by loud applause, Bush name-checked Net Neutrality, the Clean Power Act and the Waters of the United States Act — policies that many viewers probably hadn’t heard of but that Bush regularly criticizes on the campaign trail.
Finally. Candidates were allowed to actually add substance to their answers with 90 seconds — 1.5 minutes — as opposed to 30 seconds. Yet ninety seconds still is not enough to fully explain the complex issues that a president faces.