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Can George P make Jeb the 3rd Bush to win the White House race?

world Updated: Aug 09, 2015 09:10 IST
George P Bush


George P Bush, the next-generation bearer of the powerful political name, has been helping relatives run since age 3 when he clutched a balloon and sported a campaign T-shirt as his grandfather George HW Bush launched his first presidential bid in 1979.

But never has George P's role as a political surrogate been as important as it is in the 2016 primary campaign. The 39-year-old is traveling the country and flexing his muscle as a rising political star in Texas as he attempts to help his father Jeb Bush become the third Bush to win the nomination and then the White House.

He was in Iowa on Saturday, helping to open Jeb Bush's campaign office in West Des Moines in the state that holds the first vote in the process that decides presidential nominees.

"It's definitely more emotional," George P Bush said of campaigning for his dad rather than his grandfather or uncle, former President George W Bush. "It's just a little closer to home."

George P Bush suggested that doing so may be even more draining than running for the little-known but powerful job of Texas land commissioner, which he won in a landslide last year.

"When you're a candidate, you know the criticism is going to come," he said in an interview. "But when it's a relative, and it's a man who you admire who's your father, it changes things."

The pair hasn't yet campaigned together, though they talk frequently by phone. Bush spoke at his father's campaign kick off in June, but Jeb was in Florida while his son made a recent, one-day swing through South Carolina, which holds the south's first presidential primary. He was in the state capital of Columbia to file paperwork putting his father's name on the state ballot, and then traveled to Lexington for the event.

"George P Bush knows Jeb Bush better than anyone in the country. That's a strong surrogate," said Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party.

The younger Bush says he's singularly focused on his "day job" in Texas, a post he assumed in January. He manages 13 million acres of state public land and mineral rights for activities like oil and natural gas drilling. In addition to South Carolina and now Iowa, Bush's only other trip outside Texas on his dad's behalf was a quick one to Nevada.

Still, campaigning comes naturally to Bush. He was 12 when he led the 1988 Republican National Convention in the Pledge of Allegiance. His mother, Columba, is from Mexico and George P, like his dad, speaks fluent Spanish.

In 1992, he concluded a brief floor address at the party convention by screaming "Viva Bush!"

Bush is photogenic enough to have been fourth on People Magazine's 100 Most Eligible Bachelors list one year. He's married now with a 2-year-old son and another 4-month-old boy.

He sprinkled Spanish into his speeches during the 2000 and 2004 Republican national conventions, and campaigned for his uncle in both cycles, reaching out to Hispanic voters.

George P Bush also campaigned for his dad in Florida, where Jeb Bush served two terms as governor -- but hadn't taken the national stage before while doing so.

"I almost think it's more difficult now given the position he's in, since I think he's more conservative than his dad," said Eric Opiela a former executive director of the Texas Republican Party and a University of Texas law school classmate who remembers Bush being gone a lot, campaigning for his uncle's 2000 presidential bid.

The younger Bush describes himself as a "movement conservative" and was an early endorser of longshot Senate candidate Ted Cruz, now a senator and one of his father's primary race rivals. But George P has also struck a more moderate tone on immigration and environmental issues, and says his dad can unite the often feuding factions of the Republican Party by using his conservative gravitas to stand up to conservative tea party activists.

And he knows some gentle joking awaits about his grandfather and uncle, two former Republican presidents also named George.

"We are lucky to have George Bush here. That's George P Bush," says state Senator Katrina Shealy, introducing him to a crowd recently.

"Yeah," he later tells a reporter, "I've heard just about every George Bush joke that there possibly is."

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