01:06 - Source: CNN
Donald Trump: I don't know how Jeb Bush is first
Washington CNN —  

As a presidential contender, Donald Trump has been sharply critical of rival Jeb Bush. But during Bush’s two successful campaigns for the Florida governorship, The Donald was all in for Jeb.

In December 1997, Trump co-hosted with Steve Forbes an exclusive $500-a-head fundraiser for Bush’s election campaign at Trump Tower in Manhattan, according to news coverage at the time.

Trump’s fundraiser was part of a larger donor effort that “helped Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeb Bush blow past his Democratic rivals,” the Sun-Sentinel reported in January 1998, swelling Bush’s campaign cash to $3.3 million. Bush himself attended the fundraiser.

“Within a week of the event the campaign deposited more than $223,000 in contributions,” the Sun-Sentinel went on to write. “About $100,000 of that came from contributors who listed addresses outside Florida.”

Trump, who had business interests in Florida, also donated $50,000 in 1998 to the state’s Republican Party, which was aiding Bush’s election.

Trump and Bush’s campaigns did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Trump’s support for Bush’s Florida campaign continued into the 2000s. Trump, who has a long record of political donations to both parties – including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton – gave $500 to Bush’s 2002 reelection campaign, and he praised the governor in his book “The America We Deserve.”

“Jeb Bush is a good man,” Trump wrote in the book, which was unearthed by BuzzFeed. “He’s exactly the kind of political leader this country needs now and will very much need in the future…. He’s bright, tough, and principled. I like the Bush family very much. I believe we could get another president from the Bushes. He may be the one.”

Trump’s tune on Bush sounds very different now, however.

READ: Trump gains on Bush in New Hampshire among Republicans, poll finds

On the campaign trail in recent weeks, Trump has called Bush’s support for education reform “pathetic” and called him “weak” on immigration. This week, Trump retweeted – but then deleted – a supporter’s tweet about the Mexican heritage of Bush’s wife, Columba.

“I don’t regret it,” Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview Wednesday. “If my wife were from Mexico, I think I would have a soft spot for people from Mexico.”

Bush has been reluctant to discuss Trump’s criticism, telling Fox News in an interview Wednesday that he did not want to be drawn into a “food fight.” But Bush did respond to Trump’s jab at his wife while speaking to supporters in New Hampshire, calling it “bizarre.”

“You can love your Mexican-American wife and also believe that we need to control the border,” Bush said. “This is a bizarre kind of idea that somehow you can have an affection for people in a different country and not think the rule of law should apply. This is ludicrous.”