A different sort of Bush: policy wonk Jeb faces campaign image test

Updated: 2015-03-09 16:59


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Image can be a crucial factor in presidential races, as voters seek someone they can envision in the Oval Office and to whom they can relate. The 2012 Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, was seen as stiff and aloof, a perception that also dogged Democrat Al Gore in 2000.

Image experts describe Bush's body language as a work in progress after reviewing videotapes of his recent appearances.

They notice that he slumps his shoulders forward to look less than his six-foot-four-inch frame, and that he rubs his hands together, twists his wedding ring and thrusts a hand into a pocket, all signs suggesting some degree of public anxiety.

Jane Seaman, owner of the Imagine Image consulting firm in Houston, said Bush "seems uncomfortable in his clothes."

Image consultants say he will need to add passion to his obvious policy expertise.

"His words are very crafted. He's not yet personally passionate," said Patsy Cisneros, owner of West Coast-based Corporate Icon, an executive image specialist.

Bush is not known to consult an image specialist. The Bush camp declined to comment on how he is prepared for public appearances.

At an agricultural forum in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday, Bush appeared to be getting the hang of things. He praised the local food and reminisced warmly about his father's first, unsuccessful presidential bid in 1979.

The 62-year-old Jeb admits that he's at heart an introvert, telling a crowd in San Francisco recently that he "would rather read a book than go out and get in a conga line or go dancing."

When he ran again for Florida governor in 1998 and won, he did so by showing voters he cared about issues important to them. Vowing to improve education, for example, he visited 250 schools.

"I earned it by working hard to connect with people," he said in Detroit last month. "That experience on a national scale is going to be part of the strategy."

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