Early in Jeb Bush’s campaign, his advisers were worried he had “a Mitt Romney problem”—not that his policies are unpopular, but that his personality is too awkward. Just as Romney said odd things like that Michigan was great because “its trees are the right height,” Bush says things like, “I eat nails when I wake up, then I have breakfast.” The New York Times reports that Bush’s aides thought the Romney documentary Mitt was humanizing, so they made informal, off-the-cuff videos of Bush talking about, like, Sharknado. Comedians have turned these videos into Vines that only reinforce Bush’s awkwardness.
In 2012, Romney was the most awkward guy on stage (though Michele Bachmann did supposedly have “crazy eyes”). But in 2016, Bush is not alone in not being a natural people-person. Ted Cruz is not great at making friends on the campaign trail, the Times reported this week. He scares little children by telling them the world is “on fire.” He tells weird sex jokes about abortion—“we don’t have a rubber shortage in America!”
Rand Paul can’t bring himself to fake enthusiasm for all the new media gimmicks his aides force him to do. Chris Christie, while not awkward, is well-known for angry outbursts, like the time he yelled at a heckler while eating ice cream. Ben Carson responded to criticism that he was low-energy by bragging he threw rocks at people and tried to stab someone as a teen. All these candidates say they love America. But it’s not clear they like human beings.