It’s hardly a mystery that former President George W. Bush is backing his brother’s presidential campaign. But in Colorado over the weekend, the former president reportedly told a group of Republican donors which candidate he dislikes on a personal level. Politico reported:
Inside a sleek Denver condominium, George W. Bush let a hundred donors to his brother’s campaign in on a secret. Of all the rival Republican candidates, there is one who gets under the former president’s skin, whom he views as perhaps Jeb Bush’s most serious rival for the party’s nomination.It isn’t Donald Trump, whose withering insults have sought to make Jeb pay a political price for his brother’s presidency. It isn’t Marco Rubio, Jeb’s former understudy who now poses a serious threat to his establishment support.
“I just don’t like the guy,” Bush said about Ted Cruz, according to “more than half a dozen donors who attended the event” and spoke to Politico.
By all accounts, the audience was surprised by the former president’s candor when it came to criticizing the far-right senator – who used to work on George W. Bush’s campaign and in his administration.
Bush’s spokesperson issued a statement today emphasizing that the former president is confident in Jeb Bush’s chances, adding that Bush “does not view Sen. Cruz as a ‘serious rival’ to Gov. Bush’s candidacy.”
I’m not sure why not. According to one aggregator, Jeb is averaging 6.9% support among Republicans nationwide. Cruz’s average? 6.6%.
This isn’t necessarily the sort of criticism that’s likely to bother the far-right Texas senator. On the contrary, Cruz is running aggressively against his party’s establishment, which in many instances means running against the Bush/Cheney administration’s record.
As the Politico piece noted, Cruz’s book included all kinds of rhetorical shots at the former president, “criticizing elements of his foreign policy and faulting the administration for enabling ‘bigger government and excessive spending and new entitlements.’”
For Cruz, Bush’s rebuke is arguably helpful in creating distance between his campaign and the legacy of a failed former president. Jeb Bush may want to be associated with his brother’s unfortunate legacy, but Cruz wants the opposite – and George W. Bush is making that task easier.
Among GOP leaders, the former president isn’t the only one saying, “I just don’t like the guy.” But so long as the party’s far-right base isn’t saying the same thing, Cruz probably doesn’t care.