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Here's what Jeb Bush needs to do

Managing expectations is crucial in business. If a client's expectations are unrealistic, the relationship is usually doomed from the start.

Well before Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy for president, the expectations for his success were off the charts. The media chatter speculated he would raise more money than any other candidate in history. Pundits predicted he would have the most experienced policy and campaign advisors ever. Pollsters analyzed demographics that suggested Jeb had an edge with Hispanics — a crucial voting block — since he spoke Spanish and was married to a Mexican.

Jeb Bush was the anointed front-runner, even when he hadn't declared.


Jeb Bush formally announces his presidential bid in Miami, June 15, 2015.
Joe Skipper | Reuters
Jeb Bush formally announces his presidential bid in Miami, June 15, 2015.

Then Jeb Bush fumbled over a few issues — just like all presidential candidates inevitably do. But it wasn't supposed to happen with Jeb — at least that's what the narrative said.

Sen. John McCain summed it up best in the Sunday New York Times: "He just hasn't met the expectation level of what we expected of a Bush and that's been a hindrance to him."

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So, how does Jeb Bush realign expectations — or better yet, lower expectations?

There is no reset button when it comes to realigning expectations, but there is this variable called time that influences it. Jeb Bush needs to leverage time if he hopes to realign expectations.

But that's still a difficult task because expectations have already been set. He can't run away from his family name even if his new logo omits it from the campaign sign. Dropping the suit and tie for an open collar look — like he did for his official presidential announcement, is also not going to alter expectations.

No, Jeb Bush needs to do something his GOP challengers are all vying for. He needs to forget the media, ignore the cameras and speak directly to voters on the campaign stump, especially in those early swing states.

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Time out of the spotlight won't remove the Bush name from our memory, so he doesn't need to worry about the political establishment forgetting him. He also doesn't have to worry about the political flavor of the month because most of those candidates will be compared to Jeb. This time away from the cameras will allow Jeb to refine his political game, answers and policy so when the real debates begin, he can beat the lowered expectations.

Ironically, this is a media strategy Hillary Clinton has taken to counter her untrustworthy poll numbers. Her communications team isn't allowing journalists to get near the candidate, but this approach won't work with Clinton because journalists have legitimate questions regarding a concealed server in her home. Avoiding those questions only reinforces Clinton's negative trust numbers with the public.

Jeb Bush doesn't have a trust issue. He's facing high expectations based solely on his family name. He needs to drive more realistic expectations now so he has a chance to outperform them later.

Think about it from a business perspective. How many times has the inferior product outperformed expectations during a launch? What happens to the dog stock that soundly beats the street? Or what about that independent movie that becomes a hit out of nowhere? With all of these situations, the lower expectations ignited positive returns.

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I'll go as far as saying I would start to reposition Jeb as an underdog. I'll admit, this media strategy is counter-intuitive in politics where the saying goes – once you're viewed as a loser, you are a loser.

But Jeb Bush isn't a loser. He's a former governor of a populous swing state with a huge campaign war chest. His father and brother were U.S. presidents. His grandfather was a U.S. senator and his son, George P. Bush, holds one of the most powerful elected posts in Texas. Listen to that lineage and you can see why expectations were set so high.

Now that I'm thinking about it, he might have been doomed from the start.

Mark Macias heads Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.