On Monday night, George W. Bush returned to the site of his 2000 victory over John McCain in the South Carolina primary. This time it was to lend a hand to his brother Jeb’s campaign as the Feb. 20 primary draws nearer.
Bush, who is trailing behind at 5th in the polls, brought in his brother, former President George W.Bush to drum up support in a state whose primary has predicted the GOP nominee every election since 1980 with the exception of Newt Gingrich’s victory in 2012.
“This is Bush country,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said in his introduction.The elder Bush spoke for the longest period of time. “I came here for two reasons,” he began. “One, because I care deeply about Jeb, and two, because I care deeply about our country.”
President 43 touched on Jeb’s support for the military and small business owners and vouched for his faith and character.
Charming the audience, he told anecdotes from his presidency, his 2000 campaign in S.C. and his visit with Gov. Nikki Haley that afternoon.
“He killed it,” said Renn Osborne, student at the College. “The twang, a couple cute jokes, he was the drinking buddy president I always imagined he was.”
Jeb Bush followed with a strong focus on education, repairing the economy and national security. He cited his many successes as governor in balancing eight budgets, promoting job growth and improving education standards.
A group of cadets from the Citadel with freshly shaven heads cheered when Bush mentioned his visit to the military college.
Donald Trump’s name was conspicuously absent, depsite his butting heads with Bush over a series of personal attacks in the debate in Greenville on Saturday. President Bush only made references to “name-calling” and divisiveness in the Republican field. The younger Bush alluded to Trump’s comments on the former President in Saturday’s debate. “I never thought in a Republican debate we’d be talking about impeaching a Republican, two-term president,” he said.
For spectators, the Trump is always a factor. Students from the College Rebekah Oakley and Sarah Burkett have been to rallies for various other candidates, including Trump.
“Donald Trump’s was definitely more like a concert,” said Burkett. “Here it’s more formal. They were both very good rallies.”
Osborne, undecided but a “prospective” Jeb supporter, explained, “It’s going to be whoever’s going to be realistically electable in opposition to Trump.” He said he is waiting for a candidate to emerge as “the true Republican in the field, be that Jeb or Kasich or Rubio.”
The South Carolina Republican primary takes place on Saturday, Feb. 20. Polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., find your polling station at SCVotes.sc.gov.