GOP presidential hopefuls highlight their lack of a ‘famous last name’

Greenville, South Carolina CNN —  

Several Republican presidential hopefuls lined up to deliver speeches here at the South Carolina Freedom Summit on Saturday, where almost all of them – between making the case for why they would make a strong president – emphasized humble roots.

In doing so, the candidates – whether intentionally or not – sought to distinguish themselves from the summit’s most notable absentee: Jeb Bush.

“In our family, we didn’t inherit fame and fortune,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said at the summit, a one-day cattle call that drew roughly 10 presidential contenders. “What we inherited was the belief that if you work hard and you play by the rules you can do and be anything you want.”

The fact that potential White House candidates like Walker chose to highlight a tough family plight wouldn’t typically be notable – a well-crafted story about rising from poverty has long been a clichéd mainstay in American politics – but in the developing race, it provides an opportunity to take a subtle jab at Bush, the likely White House contender who happens to be the son and brother of American presidents and beneficiary of a well-off family and political dynasty.

Throughout the day, Republican officials played up their backgrounds: Walker told of how he used to wash dishes at his town’s country restaurant. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas discussed their families’ rise from poverty in Cuba. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry recalled how his mother “washed us in a Number Two wash tub until we got that indoor plummin’.” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told of how his father was born without running water in India. And Dr. Ben Carson recalled that his mother had just a third-grade education.

Like Walker, Jindal made a similar comment about inheriting a well-known family name.

“One of the things [my father] he would tell my brother and me everyday was, ‘Sons, I’m not leaving you a famous last name or an inheritance, but I will make sure you get a great education.’ He said, ‘If you’re willing to work hard, there’s no limit on what you can do in this great country.’”

The GOP contenders will likely continue to tell stories of their upbringing as they travel across the country to promote presidential campaigns, and whether they mean to or not, those stories will allow them to contrast with Bush, who is expected to launch his own campaign this summer.

The former Florida governor gave the keynote speech at Liberty University’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, an influential evangelical college in Lynchburg, Virginia. In his address, Bush spoke about religious liberty and the influence of Christianity in the world. But he also made a joke about coming from a family with a famous name.

“Today was my first time to meet with Pastor Jonathan Falwell,” Bush said. Falwell is the son of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty University and served as president. “Jonathan has a unique place here at Liberty because his dad used to be president, then his brother became president. Somehow – I don’t know how – but we really hit it off. I’m not sure what in store for you Jonathan, but I’m pulling for you.”