TABLE FOR ONE
America Declines Dinner Date With Jeb Bush
A recent Jeb ad on Facebook offers the opportunity to win dinner with Jeb. But, to look at the comments, most people seem to be washing their hair that night.
Nobody wants to have dinner with Jeb Bush.
At least, that’s the sense you’d get from reading the comments on his posts encouraging Facebook users to sign up for a chance to dine with him. The Bush campaign’s official page sponsors a post from time to time that encourages users to hand over their names and email addresses in exchange for a chance to eat dinner with the former Florida governor.
Campaign spokesman Tim Miller said the post does well for Bush, and outperforms most of their other Facebook outreach efforts. But based on the comments, you might not know it. The responses on the most recent available version of the post are overwhelmingly negative—and trollishly so.
“The ‘prize’ seems more like a booby-prize……” says the top comment, written by a user named MrNoam Zsnc, whose avatar features the weird kid from Deliverance. “Winner gets to have dinner with Jeb! Loser gets to have 2 dinners with Jeb!”
MrNoam Zsnc the Deliverance Kid wasn’t the only person to express that uncharitable sentiment.
“Does the loser get two dinners with Jeb!?” wrote user Volodya Shevchenko, whose avatar features a cat wearing a bright red pigtail wig.
Of the 100+ comments appending that post, only 15 were even remotely positive. The rest were a hodgepodge of mean-spirited memes, poorly spelled comments, eye-rolling references to polls, and general crabbiness.
“Nope. Drop out Mr. 3%,” wrote a user called Jace Tobias, whose comment received at least 31 likes—the most of any comment on that particular posting of the ad.
One commenter, a Tennessee college student named Maxwell Bentley Lee, flagged to a group of Bernie Sanders supporters that his anti-Jeb comment was at one point the top response to the advertisement.
“Nobody wants to eat dinner with Jeb,” he wrote in that comment. “The only people who would actually want Jeb as President are other millionaires in Congress who would benefit from going to White House parties if Jeb was elected.”
That comment got 36 likes and appeared in directly under the promoted post.
Reached for comment via Facebook Messenger, Lee reiterated to The Daily Beast that he would not like to have dinner with Jeb.
“I am not interested at all—would be a waste of both our time,” he wrote.
A number of users made jokes about being expected to pick up the check if they dined with the former governor. One posted a weird photoshop of Bush’s face over the Little Debbie logo, titled “Little Jebbie.” The poster did not respond to a Facebook message politely requesting explanation as to whether the pre-packaged bakery snack image was an allusion to any of Bush’s particular policy goals. (Anonymous Facebook posters aren’t the only political observers with a penchant for unsettling photoshops; Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump recently tweeted a picture of Ted Cruz’s mug photoshopped onto what appears to be a likeness of notorious Sen. Joseph McCarthy.)
“hey can i throw tamatos at him,” wrote another.
The Huffington Post’s poll tracker shows that Bush’s favorables have gone largely gone down and unfavorables have gone up since he entered the race. Currently, he’s at 53.8 percent unfavorable and just 31.5 percent favorable. A Quinnipiac poll in November gave him the worst net favorability rating of any presidential candidate. And earlier this month, a Gallup poll indicated that his net favorability with Republicans is 10 percentage points lower than it was this summer.
And while there are a panoply of explanations for this, it’s unwise to write off the impact of Internet comments. A study published in The Journal of Advertising early last year indicated that people take Internet comments seriously if they perceive the authors as credible. And being perceived as credible, on the Internet, isn’t too darn tough. So a constant drone of persistently negative commentary on every ad that Jeb promotes doesn’t do him any favors.
It also wouldn’t make for very pleasant dinner conversation.