Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush might still be trailing in the polls, but that hasn’t kept him from thinking ahead to a possible win. At a campaign stop in Iowa Tuesday night, Bush said he’d choose a woman as vice president — or, at least, you know, that he’d consider it. In a totally-on-purpose “slip of the tongue," he mentioned his hypothetical running mate, telling the crowd that “she will be a great partner.” After pointing out his use of the female pronoun to describe his running mate (“I mean, did I say that out loud?”), Bush went on to explain that the assumption that the vice president would naturally be male should be totally outdated by now, arguing that “we’ve reached the point I think in our country where maybe we should be a little less gender-specific about this."
Bush stopped short of saying that he would specifically choose a woman though — all he really committed to was that he'd pick the most qualified person, regardless of gender. It definitely wouldn’t be the first time a GOP candidate chose a female running mate, if he did (how could we ever forget Sarah Palin?), and of course, both parties have women vying for a presidential win right now.
Bush’s comments still matter, but they probably won’t make much of a difference to his campaign success, for these five reasons:
1He's Seriously Languishing In The Polls
Despite having some major financial backing to his campaign ($30 million in television ads alone), Jeb Bush is barely making a dent in the polls. According a report in the Wall Street Journal, polls in Iowa have him pegged at 4 percent. So even though his comments on a female VP are making the news rounds, it’s unlikely that frontrunner Trump and second-place Rubio will feel even slightly threatened — particularly because he didn’t actually say anything other than “women can be vice presidents too.” (Tell us something we don’t know, Jeb!).
2He's Made Plenty Of Questionable Remarks About Women
Let’s face it: Jeb Bush puts his foot in his mouth an awful lot. There was the time he said he thought half a billion dollars was too much to spend on women’s health. Then there was the time he talked about Asian women coming to America to have “anchor babies”. Then there was the time he suggested Margaret Thatcher be put on the American $10 bill, presumably because he couldn’t think of an American woman worthy of the spot. And let’s not forget when he creepily called Supergirl’s Melissa Benoist “pretty hot”. Not exactly the kind of stuff you’d say if you really believe in gender equality.
(Although thankfully, none of his comments this year have been quite as bad as the remark he made in a 1994 campaign for Florida governor where he said that women on welfare should “get their life together and find a husband” as a source of financial support. Oh, Jeb.)
3Female Republican Voters Still Love Donald Trump
Despite Trump’s numerous offensive (and often blatantly sexist) comments, he’s still somehow doing well among female Republican voters. Although that continues to surprise many pundits, experts argue that Republican women who don’t identify with the Democrats’ style of feminism are more interested in hearing about issues like immigration, taxes, health care, and wages — all things Trump has spoken strongly about. And more than any other candidate, Trump’s support base is solid, with relatively few voters saying that they would consider voting for someone else.
4It Seemed Like A Strategic Campaign Move More Than Anything Else
Did anyone really think that Bush’s comment was much more than a calculated move to stir up some publicity? Even his delivery — oops, did I say she? — was totally canned and kind of cringe-worthy. Maybe if he’d suggested some potential female VPs, or if he had said he would definitely want a woman for a reason other than that it sounds like a good thing to say, then perhaps he’d be deserving of a little more applause. But as it stands, it seemed like just another way to get his name in the headlines.
5He Doesn't Actually Seem To Care That Much About Women Voters Otherwise
Regardless of his intentions, Jeb Bush totally deserves some credit for highlighting the fact that we still have the tendency to assume that certain roles will automatically go to men. Even the way Carly Fiorina and Hillary Clinton continue to be referred to as “female presidential candidates” (do we ever refer to Bush or Trump or Sanders as “male presidential candidates”?) reflects how far we have to go still to overcome our gender biases. But that’s pretty much where Jeb Bush stops being a feminist. Although given that chances are slim he’ll ever make it far enough to pick a running mate, I guess that’s not too big a tragedy.
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