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'Jeb!' Bush: A new logo and the politics of punctuation

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Lynne Sladky/AP

(Read caption) A technician does a sound check at Miami Dade College where former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is expected to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Monday, June 15, 2015, in Miami.

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Maybe you’ve noticed that in advance of today’s official announcement that he’s running for president, Jeb Bush has started using a new campaign logo. It’s “Jeb!” That’s right, he’s using his nickname (his given name is John Ellis Bush) followed by an exclamation point. The family surname isn’t in there.

In us, this produced a sudden pang of political nostalgia. An exclamation point! Often used to convey an image of folksy excitement! Especially for candidates who might not otherwise bring such an emotion to mind!

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Former-and-current Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander used exclamation points in his 1996 presidential campaign logo. “Lamar!” didn’t make it to the White House that time, or in his 2000 follow-up attempt. Neither did Nelson Rockefeller, who used “Rocky!” during one of his numerous failed ’60s era attempts to win the Oval Office.

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Jeb! must be thinking that the third candidate’s the charm, in terms of this particular use of amped-up punctuation.

Of course, he’s used it successfully before. “Jeb!” was the logo for his winning 1998 Florida gubernatorial campaign. As numerous analysts are pointing out this morning, his political consultant then, Mike Murphy, is one of his consultants now. Also, Murphy was an adviser to Senator Alexander. So “Mike!” is obviously a big fan of this logo style.

In fact, he’s such a fan he’s already taken to Twitter to defend the exclamation point against its detractors. “Jeb!” is clean, easy to see from a distance, upbeat, and conveys a consistent message, according to Murphy. Also, he insists it is superior to Hillary Clinton’s counterpart.

“And, gotta say, Hilary logo looks like parking lot directions for a French hospital,” tweeted Murphy on Sunday.

One other “Jeb!” advantage may be a gain by omission: Bush’s politically problematic last name isn’t included. It’s not “Jeb Bush!” – which might bring back memories of his brother’s presidential issues and the whole dynasty thing.

“Omitting his last name is a rather obvious ploy for obvious reasons,” writes left-leaning Ed Kilgore at The Washington Monthly today.

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Of course, that line might hold for the leading Democratic candidate as well. That Hillary logo is just a stylized “H.” No “Clinton” included.