If you haven't already, Google "Jeb Bush" and "Supergirl." (Spoiler alert: Bush said she looked "pretty hot.")
His remark, which came during a response to a lighthearted question at a policy forum in North Las Vegas on Wednesday, was covered far and wide by local and national media. One headline caught our attention because it neatly summed up one of Bush's nagging issues:
The headline comes from the Las Vegas Sun, a major newspaper and Web site that many Nevada voters read. Assuming that they read the headline of the story first, those voters who clicked on it learned — in order — that 1) Bush called Supergirl "hot" and 2) Bush argued that federal land regulations should be loosened.
Bush is, by nature, a policy wonk. He is at his strongest and most comfortable when he talks about policy. Ahead of his trip to Nevada, he unveiled a detailed pitch for reforming federal land management, including a proposal to move the Interior Department from Washington to the West. (The Sun did a story on that.) He clearly wanted his policy ideas to be the big takeaway from his trip to the key early nominating state.
Instead, it was his "Supergirl" comment.
We will leave the debate over whether it was appropriate for a 62-year-old presidential candidate to be calling a 27-year-old actress portraying a young superhero "pretty hot" to others. But one thing that's clear is that saying it overshadowed what he came to Nevada to highlight. And for a candidate struggling to climb his way back up the Republican primary polls, that's not ideal.
Bush has gotten into trouble before with his choice of words. He is far less adept at making small talk and digressing than he is at talking policy.
In September in South Carolina, his remark that Republicans can win more African American voters by emphasizing a positive message that does not involve promising "free stuff" bore echoes of Mitt Romney, upstaging everything else Bush talked about there. In August, his defense of the term "anchor babies" also became a distraction. Earlier that month, Bush had to quiet a firestorm that erupted after he said he was "not sure we need half a billion dollars for women's health issues."
Imagine for a second an alternate universe where Bush said everything he said Wednesday but did not talk about "Supergirl." The Sun headline probably would have been something along the lines of "In Nevada, Jeb Bush argues for deregulation of federal land."
In other words, just the kind of headline a policy guy like Bush would appreciate.