Former first lady Barbara Bush is making her first public appearance on behalf of her son's presidential campaign
"Of all the people running, he seems to be the one who can solve the problems. I think he'll be a great President," Barbara Bush says
Jeb Bush has struggled to gain traction in the polls over the past several months
Jeb Bush’s “favorite Bush” is now taking a more visible role in his campaign.
While Barbara Bush has so far lent her name to fundraising letters and appeared at donor retreats, as well as Jeb Bush’s announcement speech last summer, she has yet to have a more public presence on the campaign.
In the video obtained by CNN, she praises her son for being a “good father” with a “big” heart and makes what could be interpreted as a subtle dig at the current GOP frontrunner, Donald Trump.
“When push comes to shove, people are going to realize Jeb has real solutions. Rather than talking about how popular they are, how great they are, he’s doing it because he sees a huge need and it’s not being filled by anybody,” she says in the video. “Of all the people running, he seems to be the one who can solve the problems. I think he’ll be a great president.”
Jeb Bush, however, has not been so subtle in drawing a contrast with Trump, whom he often refers to has the “large personality” on the stage. The former Florida governor has embraced the title of being the “anti-Trump” in the race in an effort to coalesce voters around him who also want to knock the real estate titan out of his frontrunner status. Polls show Trump sitting comfortably at the top, well ahead of his rivals.
The video also comes as the campaign considers when and how to deploy former President George W. Bush on the trail. The former president has high favorability ratings among Republican voters, and could generate some buzz should he step out into a more public role for his brother.
Jeb Bush told a town hall audience here about the video and said it will also eventually be on the air – though the campaign stresses it’s only a web video for now and has not gone into rotation yet.
He then revealed that while his mother kept a positive tone on camera, perhaps she’s been a little more vocal behind the scenes.
A woman in the audience pleaded with Bush to involve more of his family members on the campaign trail, expressing deep adoration for his parents and brother. The woman jokingly said the former first lady, however, probably wouldn’t have approved of Bush calling Trump “a jerk.”
“She probably did approve it,” Bush said with a smirk, as the audience broke out into laughter. “I have first-hand knowledge of this.”
Asked earlier in the day in Nashua about what kind of advice he gets from his family, Bush joked that he shouldn’t reveal the blunt guidance he gets from his mom.
“I can’t tell you what my mom’s advice has been because it is R rated. I’m just joking,” he said to laughs, before pausing. “No, I’m not.”
’I admit to being prejudiced, as I am his mother’
Barbara Bush hasn’t always been in favor of her son running. In early April 2013, she famously said “we’ve had enough Bushes.” As he began to seriously explore a bid a couple of years later, she announced that she had “changed her mind.”
She acknowledges as much in a hand-written letter, drafted herself, that will also be sent out to voters.
“I am writing to urge you to vote and to vote for Jeb Bush. People ask me if I wanted Jeb to run. The answer was (she underlined the word “was” three times) no as the sacrifice for his family was huge. I changed my mind as it became clear that he is needed. I admit to being prejudiced, as I am his mother.”
She goes on in the letter to write about his record as governor and emphasize that “these are tough times” and “we need a strong leader.”
The letter has already dropped in Iowa, and will soon be sent out in New Hampshire and South Carolina. According to the campaign, the letter was her idea, and when the campaign fact-checked the statistics she used about his record, they found them all to be accurate.
Asked by reporters about the video before it was made public Thursday, Jeb Bush said “all advertising hopefully accomplishes people moving toward your cause.”
“It’s good to get an endorsement from your mother. I don’t think she was prepared to endorse anyone else,” he quipped.
The ‘favorite Bush’
The former first lady — the wife of a president and the mother of another –is wildly popular among Republicans.
“She is without political enemies and without political baggage,” said former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen an interview earlier this week, before the video was made known. (Cullen also announced Thursday that he was endorsing Ohio Gov. John Kasich.)
“George W. did the same thing. Whenever he needed to get positive response, all he had to do was mention his mom,” Cullen added.
Indeed, Bush can hardly go one day on the campaign trail without getting asked about his parents or his brother. And the candidate, who’s tried to walk a delicate line of being his “own man” yet embracing his family name, has regularly received huge responses from audiences whenever he mentions his family. As of late, he’s taken to calling his mother his “favorite Bush.”
But his brother, George W. Bush, may come back onto the presidential trail soon as well.
“I’m sure my brother is going to be campaigning by my side, all that stuff is going to happen, but I got to win this,” Bush said at the town hall in Hampton. “People, there are people who think it’s a little odd for a third Bush to be president of the United States. The expectations on me are higher because of that, fine, you know who has higher expectations than the conventional wisdom? Me.”