NEW LONDON, New Hampshire—Jeb Bush’s final argument just days ahead of Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary election is two pronged: he’s an establishment candidate named Bush and the frontrunners are Barack Obama circa 2008.
Bush has been leading his recent campaign speeches with an anecdote about Obama -- that the then-senator’s gifted speaking skills may have helped him win the Iowa Caucus eight years ago, but that didn’t translate into tangible accomplishments or leadership in the white house. This, the former governor says, also applies to the two senators vying for the Republican nomination in 2016.
“We're electing a president of the United States, not a backbencher to the United States Senate,” Bush said of Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
That message emerged the day after Bush’s sixth place finish in the Iowa Caucus, as his campaign’s future depends on a much stronger showing in the upcoming first-in-the-nation primary where Bush has focused much of his resources for months.
The more direct hits on his rivals during town hall events is just part of the campaign’s focus this week as a new two-minute television ad called “Turn Off Trump” has begun airing in New Hampshire. The spot shows Trump’s most controversial comments from the campaign, followed by Bush’s rebuttal of the billionaire’s “disparagements.”
On Wednesday, the campaign also published a full-page advertisement in the New Hampshire Union Leader, hitting Rubio by touting the backing of seven former Florida House Speakers -– asserting that the elected officials who know both Rubio and Bush best are siding with the former governor.
As Bush struggles to regain the dominance he lost last summer in the face of Trump’s rise, he is also relying more regularly on the political legacy attached to his last name.
“Let’s get this out of the way first — I’m a Bush and I’m proud of it,” he has taken to saying. “I’m part of the establishment because I’m a Bush — Great, doesn't bother me a bit.”
The full embrace of his last name is now one of his standard campaign lines ever since voters began raising the candidate’s father and brother at daily town hall fodder in the past few weeks.
The campaign announced this week that the candidate’s mother, former first lady Barbara Bush, would join her son on the trail this week.
“No, my mom's not like gonna do a hit...” he said, discounting any attack from his mom on his rivals.
“I know the Donald got all excited when saying that my mom was gonna come and he was saying you know your mom can't negotiate with ISIS -- well to show you how idiotic Donald Trump is as it relates to foreign policy, we're not going to negotiate with ISIS,” he said. “If my mom did negotiate with ISIS, it would be a pretty tough negotiation -- far better than anything he could do, but you don't negotiate with terrorists -- You take them out."
Bush’s on Wednesday also critiqued his father’s presidency -– who he usually has nothing but praise for, often calling him “the greatest man alive.”
“I’ve learned that the presidency is a public leadership position, where you have the power to communicate and you got to do it,” he said. “Frankly, my dad didn’t do that very well.”
Previously, he has criticized his brother’s failure to rein in spending, while praising the 43rd president’s ability to keep the country safe after September 11th.