The Bush family has finally embraced Donald Trump. Well, at least George P. Bush, the son of "low-energy" Jeb Bush, has.
Without naming Trump, the Texas land commissioner gave Trump a tepid endorsement this weekend: "From Team Bush, it's a bitter pill to swallow, but you know what? You get back up and you help the man that won, and you make sure that we stop Hillary Clinton," Bush said, speaking as the Texas GOP’s victory chair, tasked with ensuring the election of Texas Republicans in November.
Jeb Bush, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush have been steering clear of the new Trump brand of conservatism. Last week, W chided Trump’s policies of "isolationism, nativism, and protectionism" — also without naming the nominee — at an Ohio fundraiser for Sen. Rob Portman, and none of the Bushes attended the Republican National Convention in July.
But George P. Bush is a more active Republican than his father, uncle, and grandfather, and therefore has more at stake with Trump. In many ways, he perfectly encapsulates the difficulty many Republicans face this fall: They need Trump’s supporters to back them, but they also need people who don’t support Trump to back them.
As Club for Growth director David McIntosh told the New York Times: "You hope Trump does well so that the base Republican vote comes out and is strong. But you also have to plan for if he doesn’t do well."
As an active Republican, Bush is under pressure to support Trump to avoid devastating down-ballot losses
George P. Bush's role as victory chair is to get conservative victories up and down the ballot. But with his family publicly critical of the GOP’s nominee, his nomination struck ire with some state Republicans.
"It’s a very surprising decision, particularly in light of the father, the uncle and the grandfather making it abundantly clear they are not going to endorse Donald Trump for November," a former GOP Texas chair and Trump delegate, Tom Pauken, told the Austin American-Statesman when Bush was nominated. "If you don’t have your own family on board, how do you encourage others?"
According to GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, this is pressure enough to push Bush to come out in support of Trump.
George P's decision is entirely due to running TX GOP victory effort to elect entire GOP ballot. https://t.co/p0XDR5cfhB— Matt Mackowiak (@MattMackowiak) August 8, 2016
But there are other reasons that might have pushed Bush to break ranks with his family, namely that being an active Republican means you have to play along with the party.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have both gotten in line, supporting, but not endorsing, Trump — although Trump’s controversial statements often put them in some awkward denouncing-but-still-supporting situations.
As Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall points out, Jeb Bush isn’t going to be running for reelection, but his son is only at the start of his career.
4: At least in Texas, if you want a future in GOP politics you need to be pro-Trump. Jebs never going to run for office again. His son will.— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) August 8, 2016
And as Ted Cruz showed at the RNC convention, treading the line with Trump can be dangerous. Cruz’s approval favorability rating plummeted after his speech at the convention, during which he pointedly refused to endorse Trump, National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar points out:
Cross Trump at your own PERIL: Per NBC/WSJ poll: Cruz fav/unfav w Rs before convo speech: 45/27. AFTER speech: 34/46. (via @mmurraypolitics)— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) August 8, 2016