In the toughest fight he’s ever faced, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush summoned reinforcements to his side in ground-zero New Hampshire on Thursday: his mom.
Former First Lady Barbara Bush campaigned briefly for the onetime GOP front-runner who has sunk to the middle of the pack in New Hampshire and toward the bottom of national Republican polls. Speaking at a New Hampshire middle school, the 90-year-old family matriarch declared her son the “world’s nicest man.”
“I didn’t really plan on this, but Jeb is the nicest, wisest, most caring, loyal, disciplined,” she said. “He’s decent and honest. He’s everything we need in a President.”
But even bringing out his mother did not mask the traditional Bush awkwardness.
“She’s not as great as everyone thinks she is, I can just tell you that one,” Bush said as the crowd playfully booed. “I jokingly say that when we were growing up in Midland, in Houston, that Mom was fortunate not to have a child abuse hotline available cause the discipline of learning right and wrong was her doing.”
Mrs. Bush’s appearance comes as her son has finally embraced his last name on the campaign trail, after trying for months to minimize its influence on his political career. Bush’s logo may still be “Jeb!” but he’s very much running as a Bush.
“I’m part of the establishment—I figured this out—I’m part of the establishment because I’m Barbara Bush’s son,” the candidate said. “And I embrace that each and every day. I’m proud of my dad. I’m proud of my brother. I’m proud of being a Bush.”
Campaigning for her third Bush presidential hopeful, Barbara Bush credited her son’s humility.
For Bush, embracing the last name has already had a noticeable benefit. Referencing the crowd of more than 200, Jeb credited his mom—even though Sen. Marco Rubio had a similar audience a few towns away.
“Mom, my crowd sizes usually aren’t this large,” Bush said as he took the microphone from his mother. “I wonder why.”
The candidate used the opportunity to criticize the three GOP front-runners’ experience. “Donald Trump? I’ll leave it at that,” he said, as his mother laughed. He then criticized Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz for lacking records of accomplishment.
With New Hampshire a pivotal contest, Bush channeled his privileged upbringing to argue that Granite State voters have one more chance to reset the race.
“If you’re tired of the dividers, of the angry voices, of the profanity, of the loud voices, of all the vulgarity that exists, instead of uplifting messages that bring us together, then you have this extraordinary opportunity,” he said. “You live in New Hampshire, you can change the course of any campaign anytime you want. You don’t have to say the pundits have figured this out for me, in fact you’ll figure this out for the pundits, that’s the amazing thing.”