CHARLESTON, S.C. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush enlisted his brother, former President George W. Bush, on Monday to try to give him a lift as he looks for a strong showing in South Carolina's crucial primary.
The 69-year-old George W. Bush, who won the 2000 and 2004 Republican primary contests in South Carolina en route to presidential victories those years, was to appear with Jeb at a 6 p.m. (2300 GMT) rally in North Charleston, days before Republicans vote in the state on Saturday.
Before that event, the elder Bush and his wife, Laura, visited with U.S. military veterans at an American Legion Post in Columbia, South Carolina, to try to encourage the state's large contingent of military personnel and veterans to get behind his brother's White House bid.
The former president looked as comfortable as ever as he made a rare campaign appearance, shaking hands, posing for pictures and cracking jokes.
The appearance of the elder Bush on the campaign trail is seen as helping Jeb with South Carolina Republicans who hold the former president in high regard. But it also carries some risks given his launching of the Iraq war in 2003, which ended up being unpopular with many Americans and which rival Donald Trump has seized on to criticise him.
George W. Bush's standing has risen among all Americans since he left power in 2009 and he has stayed on the sidelines of his brother's presidential bid, headlining private fundraisers but otherwise staying off the campaign trail.
That he is getting out in public now shows the urgency that Jeb Bush sees in a good performance in South Carolina. Bush finished in sixth place in the Iowa caucuses and in fourth place in the New Hampshire primary - the first contests in the state-by-state battles to pick a party nominee for the Nov. 8 presidential election.
In South Carolina, opinion polls show Jeb currently running in fourth place behind Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Trump, who is the national front-runner in the Republican race and is leading in polls of South Carolina, scheduled an afternoon news conference in Charleston and was likely to criticize the Bush family anew.
At a debate of the Republican presidential candidates in Greenville, South Carolina, on Saturday, Trump accused George W. Bush of squandering trillions of dollars to wage the Iraq war over weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, and noted that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks had occurred on his watch.
Jeb Bush, a former Florida governor whose studious demeanour and policy-heavy campaign is in sharp contrast to Trump's fired-up rhetoric, has been hitting back. On Monday he said he sees Trump as attempting a hostile takeover of the Republican Party with positions that go against party doctrine, such as his proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
Bush, mocked by Trump as a "low-energy" candidate, has been the only Republican candidate to take on Trump consistently at the debates. He goaded the New York billionaire into angry outbursts in Greenville in the most acrimonious debate of the 2016 cycle.
"It was ugly, I guess. Part of it was related to the need to make sure people knew that Donald Trump is not a conservative and he got angry and, you know, kind of lost it a little bit," Bush told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
A radio ad running in South Carolina by Bush's SuperPAC, Right to Rise, called attention to Trump's frequent use of profanity. As Trump's voice is heard, his expletives are bleeped out and an announcer says: "Is this the type of man we want leading our country?"
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Frances Kerry)
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Updated Date: Feb 16, 2016 02:32 AM