Jeb Bush was the subject of a possible prank possibly before the Iowa caucus, when two young men stood up during his speech, claiming to be “seat fillers” and demanding to be paid. Who enlisted the men isn’t clear, but the prime suspect appears to be Marco Rubio for now.
Things have not gone as planned for Jeb Bush. The GOP candidate was favored as the establishment golden boy, a near-certain name to appear on the ticket, but that was before Donald Trump got involved. Now, his campaign has sputtered, finishing 6th in the Iowa caucus. Worse yet, he seems to have become the butt of a seat filler prank designed to make it look he was astroturfing.
According to USA Today, the trouble started Monday morning when fliers started appearing, offering people $25 an hour to attend Jeb Bush’s two-hour rally. Jeff Sadosky posted a picture of the flier on Twitter.
In Des Moines and need some quick money…apparently Jeb Bush will pay you to listen to him. pic.twitter.com/NXExjSAB64
— Jeff Sadosky (@JeffSadosky) February 1, 2016
Then during the rally, one man stood up and yelled “we’ve been here for over two hours and we haven’t gotten paid for our time,” according to the Des Moines Register. He was immediately booed and jeered.
Jeb Bush replied, “That is such… get out of here, man.”
Security escorted the man out of the rally. Then the presidential hopeful continued, referring to the heckler as a YR “Young Republican,” a group well known for their pranks.
“Have the YRs left the room. When I was younger, that would always happen. The YR guys would go to other campaigns and play like that.”
The man did not seem to be there to legitimately collect his money; good seat fillers know to wait until after the event, and speak quietly about payment. So, if the fliers weren’t real, as Bush alleges, who set up the prank?
According to US News, a conservative blog reasoned that the Super-PAC Right to Rise, which supports Bush, was hiring the seat fillers, but it was quick to deny those allegations.
A spokesman for the Super-PAC said that it was actually Rubio’s PAC Conservative Solutions that ran the fake seat filler ad. Right to Rise’s communications director Paul Lindsay followed up with his own tweet.
— Paul Lindsay (@Paul_Lindsay) February 1, 2016
It may seem strange that there would be enough friction between the two camps to prompt that kind of hoax, considering that there are much bigger fish to go after – Trump and Cruz. But the two Floridians have spent significant resources trying to knock each other out.
Right to Rise, for example, has spent $20 million on ads specifically targeting Marco Rubio, who discussed the onslaught on Fox News last week.
“I think they kind of felt that maybe things haven’t gone the way they planned, and so taking me down is what they’re going to do. You know, when I got into this race, a lot of people in the establishment told me that if I ran, it wasn’t my turn and they would do what they needed to stop me. So obviously, this is a part of that.”
Jeb Bush’s retort was simple: be a man.
“Time to man up. Wait till you see the Hillary Clinton attack ad hit machine come on. You’re going to see attack ads that are going to scrape the bark off the Republican nominee. As they say in North Florida, it’s going to be butt-ugly.”
Currently, it doesn’t appear that either candidate will face the full fury of Clinton’s campaign machine in the general election. Trump and Cruz continue to do well in the polls, although Rubio gained some momentum from his unexpected third place finish. And Jeb Bush continues to underperform, even without a seat filler hoax from his former protege.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]