With stakes rising among GOP presidential contenders, former President George W. Bush has taken a break from his amateur painting career to step back into the political arena to support his brother Jeb.
In the past two weeks in New Hampshire and now on to South Carolina, establishment candidate Jeb, who has been fighting to stay relevant in a cacophonous Republican primary race, has enlisted his family's help on the campaign trail. His mother, 90-year-old Barbara, joined him in New Hampshire, where she said her son is "almost too polite" and should start interrupting more in debates. She appeared in a campaign ad for him in January.
And George W., who has mostly stayed out of the limelight after an eight-year presidential term, just cut two ads for his brother and plans to join him on the trail in South Carolina.
He voiced an ad for Jeb Bush's Right to Rise Super PAC, which aired during the Super Bowl in New Hampshire and South Carolina, pushing his trust in his brother's abilities. Right to Rise has said it plans to invest $4.2 million in advertising in South Carolina.
"I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone. Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror, and he knows when tough measures must be taken. Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe," George said.
He also contributed to a radio ad in South Carolina with Jeb:
GEORGE: This is President George W. Bush. We live in troubled times with the military deployed around the world. We need a strong leader with experience, ideas and resolve. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jeb Bush will be a great commander-in-chief for our military. Jeb has dealt with crises as the governor of Florida, and he did so with steadiness, and a calmness necessary in a good leader. He respects the military – he honors their families. He can make the tough decision to keep Americans safe and our country free. And in a time of crisis, he will be a steady hand.
JEB: I’m the only candidate for president who’s running on my record – not away from it. And the only candidate with a real plan to defeat ISIS, balance the budget and grow our economy. I’m Jeb Bush, I’m running for president and I approved this message because I’m ready to lead.
George is slated to appear with Jeb in North Charleston, South Carolina, Monday, in his first official appearance on behalf of the campaign.
When Jeb placed his bid for the White House, many speculated he would try to distance himself from the family name — which was most recently associated with economic downfall and the Iraq War. (Even Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is quick to identify himself as against the war.)
But after months of low polling numbers, Jeb, whose campaign was quickly overshadowed by Donald Trump and the rounds of several other GOP contenders, has taken to saying, "I'm proud to be a Bush."
Jeb placed sixth in Iowa's caucuses, even behind now-former candidate Rand Paul, and fourth in New Hampshire in a close heat with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He is polling similarly in South Carolina, which will hold its Republican primary on February 20.
The Bush family name has carried past South Carolina primaries, George won South Carolina in 2000, and their father, former President George H.W. Bush, won there in both 1988 and 1992.
Like most presidents after office, George has seen his favorability rating improve after leaving the White House, with higher numbers among Republican men with household incomes under $50,000 and suburbanites, both important bases for the Bush campaign.