A good point from my pal Karl: Does anyone think Right to Rise, which is barred by law from coordinating with Jeb’s campaign, recruited Jeb’s former-president brother for an ad without the approval of Bush 2016? You don’t roll George W. Bush into the middle of a TV ad war as a last-minute surprise for Jeb and his strategists.
Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational battle station:
“The first job of the president is to protect America. The next president must be prepared to lead. I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone,” Bush says in the 30-second Right to Rise spot, which spotlights the former president speaking directly to the camera.
“Jeb will unite our country. He knows how to bring the world together against terror. He knows when tough measures must be taken,” Bush adds. “Experience and judgment count in the Oval Office. Jeb Bush is a leader who will keep our country safe.”
The TV commercial is set to begin running on Friday in South Carolina, according to a media buying source. The former president is also expected to hit the campaign trail in the state ahead of its Feb. 20 primary.
Indeed he is:
At a dinner of roughly 300 Morgan Stanley executives on Wednesday evening in New York, President George W. Bush told the crowd that he was looking forward to campaigning for his brother in South Carolina according to two people briefed on his remarks.
The Bush campaign, said others briefed on its thinking, is aiming to have the former president on the ground in South Carolina a few days after the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9.
“I’m a Bush and I’m proud of it,” Jeb told voters in New Hampshire yesterday, which no doubt is true but which he’d be keeping to himself if he was 10 points up and not in desperate need of a game-changer before Tuesday’s vote. He started running an ad with Barbara Bush two weeks ago, but most New Hampshire polls since then still have him stuck in high single digits. Then again, an endorsement from Dubya is different from one by Barbara, not only in terms of name recognition but in effect. Barbara showing up for Jeb is pure branding — “buy Bush political products!” — whereas many Republican voters, including many who are still under 40, personally invested themselves in Dubya with votes and contributions. Jeb’s not going to win South Carolina because of him, but I’ll bet every voter there with a TV set looks up from whatever they’re doing when they hear that familiar voice come through the speakers. In the highly, highly, highly unlikely event that Jeb ends up as nominee, Democrats will use this ad to batter him in the general election. But (a) they’re going to batter him over George’s record no matter what, (b) more Americans view George positively at this point than view him negatively, and (c) worrying about the general election now is like worrying about the championship game when you’re down three TDs in the fourth quarter of the semifinal.
In fact, Team Jeb has been thinking of deploying Dubya in South Carolina since at least early October. I stand by what I wrote at the time, that the main thing George does for Bush is lend him a bit of stature. Months of “low energy” attacks by Trump, followed now by Rubio’s rise, have turned Jeb into the race’s most famous beta male, a spot a family full of presidents isn’t used to occupying. It’s time to go alpha. That’s where Dubya comes in. The other significance of this, of course, is that it signals Jeb’s going to battle Rubio in SC no matter what happens in New Hampshire, which even Bush supporters like Lindsey Graham think is a bad idea. Putting Dubya on TV and on the trail is as much a signal to Jeb’s donors as it is to local voters. The message, obviously, is loyalty: If George W’s not giving up on Jeb, the Bush family network had better not give up either by switching to Rubio. Not all of them will listen, but enough might to hold Rubio down just enough to enable a Trump or Cruz win in the state. What an … interesting legacy that would be for the Bush dynasty as it comes to an end. Especially since Rubio, arguably even more so than Jeb, is the last best hope of Bush-style conservatism this election.
Here’s the ad, following by a new spot from Rubio’s Super PAC showing Right to Rise that they know how to do attack ads too.