Former President George W. Bush attended a Monday night rally in South Carolina, with his brother, Republican candidate Jeb Bush. In promoting his brother’s past experience of dealing with recovering from eight hurricanes slamming Florida, Bush spoke of his own experience of being thrust into the role of a wartime president during the Sept. 11 attacks.
In his first political rally since leaving office in 2009 and his first public appearance on behalf of Jeb Bush’s bid for the GOP nomination, George W. Bush pointedly acknowledged the “anger and frustration” that has pushed Republican voters toward frontrunner Donald Trump. But he argued the country needs a president like his brother who can be a “steady” and calm hand in the White House in order to fix the country’s problems — not someone who offers empty “bluster.”
The former president did not mention Trump — or any of his brother’s rivals, Republican or Democrat — by name. But in a 20-minute speech, the elder Bush repeatedly alluded to the business mogul and former reality star whose insurgent candidacy has thrown the GOP race into turmoil, urging voters to choose a candidate who offers more than slogans and who can appeal across party lines in order to win the general election in November.
W. Bush’s appearance comes day before the pivotal South Carolina GOP primary, which could possibly end Jeb Bush’s struggling presidential campaign. Following losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Jeb trails badly in the polls, running in fifth place behind Kasich and Senator Rubio. Bush aides hoped to spark a comeback for their boss by bringing in the former president, who remains incredibly popular here seven years after leaving office — particularly with veterans and members of the military, who make up a significant part of the state’s Republican electorate.
We need to nominate someone who can win in November, all the talk doesn’t matter if we can’t win,” George W. Bush told supporters. “We need someone who can take a positive message across the entire country.”
Jeb Bush is changing his strategy after bringing in his mother and brother, after not always embracing his family legacy on the campaign trail. The former Florida governor has struggled to deal with his brother’s political legacy, including his handling of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last year, Jeb Bush stumbled over questions about whether he would have handled the Iraq war differently — torn between acknowledging the mistakes made by the former president’s administration and staying loyal to his brother. When rivals pounced on that and the idea that yet another Bush might be in the White House, Jeb Bush argued, “I’m my own man.”
Trump has tried to make George W. Bush an issue in the campaign — arguing at Saturday’s GOP debate that he should have been impeached for his handling of the Iraq War. In an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, George W. Bush said he found it “interesting” that foreign policy is a central campaign issue, unlike in the 2000 presidential election.
I’ve looked at Jeb’s plan, I know how solid it is. The other thing that’s needed in the White House – and Jeb understands this – is you set a goal: defeat ISIS,” he said. “Then you call upon the people who know how to help you achieve that goal, that would be the military and intelligence community. And Jeb respects them, and that’s what you really want.”
South Carolina also helped former President George W. Bush in 2000 bounce back from a loss he suffered in New Hampshire to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Fast forward to today and the strong political ties to the Bush family still exist. For example, Sen. Lindsey Graham, a long-time friend of the Bush family, has already endorsed Jeb Bush for the 2016 run. Some strategists say the big return of W. to the campaign trail, which was once seen as a political liability, is now just the right shot of adrenaline Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign needs.