Jeb Celebrates Winning the Bush 'Lottery' in South Carolina

As the former Florida governor’s campaign limps into South Carolina, he’s using his family legacy and the experience it stands for to distinguish himself from the pack.
Photographer: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

As the Republican primary battleground shifts to South Carolina, Jeb Bush has a new way of dealing with his family history: embracing it.

The former Florida governor has taken the new tack in the Palmetto State, where he's locked in a battle with Senator Marco Rubio—a fellow Floridian whom he'd previously mentored.

His dad, President George H.W. Bush? "The greatest man alive," he said Friday at a rally in Anderson, South Carolina. His brother? The presidential hopeful says he remains nothing but proud of George W. Bush. And Barbara Bush? Don't even get him started.

He "won the lottery" on that one, he told a crowd at the Anderson, South Carolina Civic Center.

"I had a front row seat to watch history unfold," he told a crowd of supporters about growing up in a political family. "I've been totally blessed to be in a unique place where I've seen history unfold and I've seen leadership when it was done right."

He singled out special admiration for the former first lady, who last month appeared in football shoulder pads and eye black for a picture tweeted by the campaign in a jab at Trump. That shot followed the billionaire real estate developer's own attack on on Twitter for leaning on support from his mother following her appearance in a campaign video touting her son's readiness to lead the fight against ISIS.

"Frankly, when my little eyes opened up 63 years and a day ago in Midland, Texas, I opened my eyes and she was there—I won the lottery in Barbara Bush," Bush said during the rally, which came the day after spending his birthday on the campaign trail. 

Bush's comments come as he's locked in an increasingly personal battle in the state with former political student Marco Rubio, who's accused him of lacking foreign policy credentials.  The state has been good to his family and his brother, President George W. Bush, in 2000 went on to win the nomination after losing to John McCain in New Hampshire as the victory allowed him to recapture momentum.

In a year when Donald Trump sits atop the Republican pack and voters have said they are fed up with insider politicians, Bush has had to contend with the one thing he can't run from: his own name. On the Democratic side, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders resoundingly defeated former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire as voters make the anti-establishment theme on both sides of the aisle.

Bush is deploying the family name, and the years of political experience it stands for, to hit back. After Trump’s repetition of a vulgarity at a campaign rally ahead of the New Hampshire primary last week, Bush slammed him in a gathering of evangelical students at Bob Jones University in Greenville.

"I can't imagine my dad doing that," he told the crowd. And his brother "was always wearing a suit in the Oval Office because he viewed it as hallowed ground."

But perhaps his sharpest attacks came earlier in the day at the Anderson stop, where he said Cruz and Rubio are too inexperienced for the White House. Bush has attempted to position himself as a steady hand among a gang of neophytes and incompetents.

"What in the life experiences of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio would suggest they can make a tough decision when the going gets tough?" Bush asked this morning at a rally in Anderson. "It's possible, but they are untested people in dangerous and risky times—it's a risk."

Never one to be left out, Trump fired back today on Twitter claiming the campaign may be draw to an end for Bush.

"Last time lightweight @JebBush tried to knock off @marcorubio he made a total fool of himself. If he doesn't do better this time, he's out!"

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