On Friday, Right to Rise, the super PAC backing Jeb Bush, released a new ad in South Carolina featuring George W. Bush. “I know Jeb,” he says, as rippling American flags and soldiers flash on the screen. “I know his good heart and his strong backbone. Jeb will unite our country.”
For months, the Bush campaign has wondered whether the 43rd president would be an asset or liability on the campaign trail, but with Jeb sitting at around 4.5 percent in national polls, it seems he has little left to lose.
The ad could also signal a broader shift in the Bush campaign’s geographic strategy. For months, the former Florida governor has hinted that he would need to perform well in New Hampshire to advance in the Republican primary. But this most recent ad buy suggests his allies are already looking past Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary to South Carolina, which often acts as a firewall for establishment candidates in unruly Republican primaries.
The Palmetto State has been kind to the Bush family. It was South Carolina that halted John McCain’s momentum in 2000, ensuring George W. Bush would get the nomination, and South Carolina that secured the Republican nomination for his father in 1988, after he lost Iowa to Bob Dole.
Still, Jeb comes to the state at a slight disadvantage: Rubio, Cruz, and their allies have been airing ads in South Carolina for weeks, while Jeb devoted almost all his resources to New Hampshire.