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One staffer, through her tears, lamented, "He was just a decent guy."
Regardless of his successes and failures as a candidate and irrespective of his policies, Bush was a fun guy to cover. He treated the media with respect, and his staff, ever the consummate professionals, made the candidate accessible, holding press availabilities several times a week.
And Bush himself, much to the chagrin of his communications department, was physically unable to not answer a question posed to him. His candor, dry sense of humor, and penchant for joking with the reporters who covered him made the jobs of the traveling press interesting, to say the least.
Here are a few of the five most interesting moments this reporter had while covering Bush.
1. That Time He Pretended to Confuse Me With Another Reporter
During a gaggle earlier this month, the usually bespectacled Bush was notably missing his glasses.
As usual, this reporter, height-challenged as I am, positioned myself in the center of the gaggle. Bush greeted me.
"Ashley, how are you doing?" he asked.
My name is Candace. Befuddled, thinking he had confused me for my counterpart at CNN, Ashley Killough, I was about to object when he quickly corrected himself. "I’m not wearing my contacts, so, hey, Candace, what’s happening?" he said.
After the gaggle was done -- he had announced that his mother would be joining him on the trail on Thursday -- he looked around.
"Hey, Candace, you know ... I just thought that was a joke ... wherever you are," he said. I was standing right in front of him.
“See!” he exclaimed. “I can’t see."
2. The Time He Showed Us His Blood Stains
In January, Bush cut his finger during his Sunday tradition, making guacamole for his family. The bandage on his thumb was noticeable during events he'd held. After an event in Hilton Head, South Carolina, he joked with reporters on his injury, unprompted.
“Since you all travel as much as I do, my thumb has been still in recovery," he began.
He was asked whether it was getting worse.
" No, but this morning I didn’t have a Band-Aid on it and I tried to put my buttons on, the buttons for my shirt, because it’s hard to do it with a thumb that doesn’t work. So I had to wear a tie today to cover up the blood on every one of the button holes.”
He then proceeds to unbutton his suit jacket to reveal the spots of blood dotting his shirt. The reporters' were aghast ... yet intrigued.
"This is the life of a wandering nomad,” he joked.
3. The Time He Was Given a Powerball Ticket
In Columbia, South Carolina, following a "Right to Life" rally, our small group of reporters followed Bush, with cameras, to his car. He rolled down the window, as he often does, and proceeded to show off a gift he had received.
Guy in crowd donated this to Jeb. "If I win, it's gonna be huuuge!" (Noting that proceeds would go to the campaign) pic.twitter.com/KoDsF9Wgnm— Candace Smith (@CandaceSmith_) January 9, 2016
“If I win, it’s going to be YUUUGGGE,” he laughed.
4. That Time He Showed Us the Interesting Contents of His Pockets
In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Bush was chatting with a fellow space-nerd, Zacharie Morrow, 13. After an in-depth conversation, after which the former Florida governor invited him to Cape Canaveral, Zacharie left with this:
Jeb & Zacharie had a nerd moment on NASA- Jeb came back, gave him this. "Slow & steady wins the race," Jeb told him. pic.twitter.com/Q9eNCAYdxJ— Candace Smith (@CandaceSmith_) January 6, 2016
It was a small metallic turtle. With it, he left Zacharie a piece of advice, a slogan that’s became his campaign’s adage: “Slow and steady wins the race.” It turns out the parting gift was not entirely unique. As Bush later showed reporters, he has other tiny turtles lining his pockets, just for occasions like these. So what else did he have inside?
"Let's see what I got here, I got a little baby Jesus, I got my rosary beads and I got three turtles,” Bush said.
5. That Time We Emailed About Guacamole
It was July. I had just begun to cover Bush full-time. I had heard stories of how he corresponded with reporters frequently over email during his tenure of governor.
In a demonstration of transparency, Bush tweeted out his email address, inviting those curious about his finances to “email me directly.”
Bush campaign aides said firstname.lastname@example.org was meant for use by voters eager to hear from the candidate himself, but this reporter decided to give it a shot. So, I drafted an email, knowing that it might drop into the dustbin of cyberspace.
Rather than dwell on his economic plan or some other weighty subject, I decided to ask about an even more pressing matter: The raging debate, sparked by a recipe published in The New York Times, suggesting that peas might be an appropriate addition to guacamole.
Imagine my surprise when I saw this:
Date: July 1, 2015 at 3:20:59 PM CDT
To: Smith, Candace M.
Subject: Re: Hello!
I have not nor will I start now! Jeb
Sent from my iPhone
On Jul 1, 2015, at 3:41 PM, Smith, Candace M. wrote:
I don't know if you'll ever see this but figure I'll give it a shot!
What's the oddest question you've ever gotten to any of your public email accounts?
Also- have you ever actually had guacamole with peas?
I couldn't figure out what to feel: shock that the governor responded to me directly, or crushing defeat that I had wasted a question on dip.
Over my time covering Bush, reporters realized that he would not respond to any matter of great consequence over email, but that it was a good outlet to correspond on lighter issues. He and I emailed about Christmas plans, fashionable winter sweaters, and I once invited him to dine with reporters. (He respectfully said that he would ask his communications director.)
Never did an email go unanswered.