This US presidential election is seen as one of the most bizarre in modern times, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump setting the tone. But now Jeb Bush is joining in by questioning another candidate’s height and the boots he wears.
It all seems rather tawdry for the son and brother of two former presidents, but Bush’s campaign is floundering and this appears to be another effort to boost it ahead of the first presidential selection contests in Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming weeks.
The spat began on Tuesday when Bush’s Right to Rise Political Action Committee accused Marco Rubio of political flip-flopping in an ad featuring his high-heeled Beatle boots dancing around issues to the tune of Nancy Sinatra’s song ‘These Boots Were Made for Walkin’’.
Americans, struggling for better jobs and higher wages in this election year, were scratching their heads when Bush followed up on Wednesday by questioning Rubio’s height and suggesting it can be a factor in a person’s intelligence.
“I don’t have a height issue,” he said on MSNBC. “My wife tells me there’s an inverse relationship between height and intelligence.”
The 6ft 3in Bush then taunted the 5ft 10in Rubio for complaining about the boots ad.
The former Florida governor also implied he was tougher than Rubio.
“I think we need leaders that run to the challenge, run to the fire to try to solve the problem rather than cut and run if there’s a problem,” Bush said.
Rubio called the focus on his boots “craziness”, given the many challenges facing America. “Have people lost their minds?” he wondered.
Many Republicans are concerned about the nature of the attacks on Rubio, whom they increasingly see as the last remaining mainstream alternative to Trump or the rightist Texas senator Ted Cruz. They had pinned their hopes on Bush securing the nomination, backed by his dynastic family and a record $100m campaign war chest. But his campaign never managed to take off and has been overwhelmed by Trump’s rise.
To the dismay of the Republican establishment, Trump and Cruz look set to make strong gains in the presidential primaries and unless Bush can achieve a third place showing in the early deciders, his campaign could soon be doomed.
“Does he want his legacy to be that he elected Donald Trump or Ted Cruz?” said Stuart Stevens, the strategist who ran Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign against incumbent Barack Obama.
The Bush-Rubio rivalry is more about style than substance. Rubio, 44, a Florida senator, started out as a friend and protégé of Bush, who is 20 years his senior. However, everything changed when both became presidential candidates last year, especially when Rubio overtook Bush in polls and debate performances.
Bush is not the only one fixated on Rubio’s boots. Illustrious media such as The New York Times and The Washington Post have also weighed in on the subject. Likewise, the height issue has come up for discussion.
Courtesy of US News & World Report, for example, we learn that, since 1900, the taller candidate has won the US presidential election 19 times, while the shorter one has won just eight.
Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton had better watch out — she comes in at 5ft 7in.
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