WASHINGTON – It’s been almost two months since Jeb Bush was atop a Republican presidential poll in New Hampshire or South Carolina. He’s never been the top choice in Iowa. He’s fifth in a pair of national polls this week.
Those numbers aren’t keeping Bush from picking up supporters around the country in the scramble to scoop up people from recently folded presidential campaigns.
A significant share of Scott Walker’s former team is backing the son and brother of former presidents, and the head of Rick Perry’s super PAC is now helping Bush raise money. The campaign has expanded its grass roots teams in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, and announced new supporters in Virginia, Alabama and Massachusetts.
Interviews with recent additions to the Bush team show that the former Florida governor is selling the campaign, at a time when he’s at his lowest point in the polls, on the ability to outlast the insurrection within the Republican Party that has lifted Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Bush has also told these new supporters that he’s clear-eyed about where he needs to improve.
“He’s probably got to drink more Red Bull, but I do think he’s going to get there,” said New York hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, a member of Walker’s finance team who just took a similar position with Bush. “Jeb Bush has the horses behind him.”
Tarred as low-energy by Trump’s insult machine, Bush has become more animated on the campaign trail but hasn’t veered from his campaign’s strategy, supporters said. Bush rolled out a series of policy proposals this month and still portrays himself as the candidate who can draw voters to the Republican Party.
Still, the 62-year-old Bush has tried to deliver his stump speech with more voltage.
While cable TV aired Trump’s Wednesday speech live from Keene, N.H., Bush spoke forcefully 50 miles away in Bedford about cutting regulations and reversing President Obama’s foreign policy.
“If you’re looking for the big guy on the stage talking in the first-person singular — I, I, I, me, me, me, it’s all about me — man, I’m not good at that,” Bush said. “It’s not my motivation. It’s not how I was brought up. … But if you’re looking for someone who actually cares about people rising up, that has the kind of energy, passion and conviction to be on the side of people that are really struggling right now, I’m your man.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who was announced this week as Bush’s national chairman of federal-state relations, pointed to the former governor’s more measured approach as a reason for his endorsement.
“I’ve been impressed by his earnestness and interest in restoring the proper balance between Washington and the states,” said Pruitt. “There needs to be humility in the White House.”
Terry Kilgore, one of Walker’s Virginia co-chairmen, said that he signed up with Bush based on the former governor’s conservative record. “Jeb has the staying power,” Kilgore said.