Former President George W. Bush isn’t mincing words when it comes to his disdain for Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said at a presidential campaign fundraiser Sunday night for his brother, Jeb, according to Politico. Notably, Bush took direct aim at the Texas senator, who once worked for him as a domestic policy adviser during his 2000 campaign, and not GOP front-runner Donald Trump, who has recently criticized his handling of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The report cited at least six donors who were at the event in Denver and said Bush denounced Cruz’s seemingly close ties to Trump. The billionaire real estate mogul has refrained from going after Cruz on the campaign trail, unlike the rest of the GOP field.
In paraphrasing Bush’s remarks, one donor told Politico that Bush “found it ‘opportunistic’ that Cruz was sucking up to Trump and just expecting all of his support to come to him in the end.”
Bush’s team pushed back Tuesday, with communications director Freddy Ford issuing a statement that the first words out of Bush’s mouth at the event were that “Jeb is going to earn the nomination, win the election and be a great president.” Ford added that Bush “does not view Sen. Cruz as a ‘serious rival’ to Gov. Bush’s candidacy.”
The senator has, so far, refused to return fire. Cruz said in a statement on Tuesday morning, “I have great respect for George W. Bush, and was proud to work on his 2000 campaign and in his administration. It’s no surprise President Bush is supporting his brother and attacking the candidates he believes pose a threat to his campaign. I have no intention of reciprocating.” Cruz added, “I met my wife Heidi working on his campaign, and so I will always be grateful to him.”
One time front-runner Jeb Bush has seen his standing among GOP voters take a hit. According to a Real Clear Politics average of national polling data surrounding the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, he’s in fourth place with 8% support, with Cruz nipping at his heels in fifth place with 7.8%. Trump continues to lead with 26% support, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 21% and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 10.2%.