While Jeb Bush’s son raised eyebrows over the weekend by breaking with the family to back Donald Trump, it is an indication that the Texas public official has ambition for higher office, according to Lone Star State political experts.
Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said it shows that Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush — the youngest politician in the Bush family dynasty — has his sights set toward the future, not the past.
“Jeb and George W. and H.W. are never going to run for anything again. It’s a big state and there are a lot of other people trying to crawl to the top.”
“Jeb and George W. and H.W. are never going to run for anything again,” Murray said. “It’s a big state and there are a lot of other people trying to crawl to the top.”
Bush, who became the fourth generation of his family to win elected office when he won a race for land commissioner in 2014, offered his support to the GOP nominee for president at a training meeting for members of the State Republican Executive Committee and county chairmen.
“From Team Bush, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you know what? You get back up and you help the man that won, and you make sure that we stop Hillary Clinton,” Bush said, according to The Texas Tribune.
Although it may not be the most enthusiastic endorsement in political history, it is significant — given how hostile the rest of the Bush clan has been. Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who began the 2016 sweepstakes as the early favorite for the nomination, suffered a barrage of ridicule from Trump as a “low energy” candidate. Bush said Trump would be a “chaos president,” skipped the Republican National Convention, and pointedly refuses to endorse him.
One of the former Florida governor’s aides even said she will vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton if the race in Florida is close.
Former President George W. Bush, the uncle of George P. Bush, also attacked Trump. He denounced “isolationism, nativism, and protectionism” at a private fundraiser in Cincinnati for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) last week, although he did not mention Trump by name.
But Murray said George P. Bush likely concluded that failing to back the party’s nominee for president would damage his own political career.
“He’s got more to prove [than his famous relatives],” he said. “And just being a Bush doesn’t have the currency it used to.”
Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he has not seen recent polling in the state — but he is fairly certain that George P. Bush has.
“What occurs to me is George P. wants a political future in Texas,” he said. “My guess is Trump would poll reasonably well in Texas just because he’s the Republican Party nominee … That’s the bet he’s making.”
Buchanan said Bush, 40, would probably like to get into the Texas government executive hierarchy, perhaps going for one more job before seeking an office like governor or lieutenant governor.
“He’s young,” he said. “He’s got a famous last name. I’m sure he wants to use it.”
Murray said Bush has made some missteps in office. He pointed to a mini-scandal involving allegations that Bush improperly spent almost $1 million in taxpayer money paying fired staffers to prevent them from suing. At the same time, Murray added, Bush has proved politically adept. He endorsed Ted Cruz in his upstart bid for the Senate in 2012, while most of the rest of the state’s GOP Establishment lined up behind then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.
Interestingly, Bush might now be on a collision course with Cruz, who provoked a backlash by refusing to endorse Trump at the RNC. Buchanan said George P. Bush likely calculated that the safe move is backing Trump.
“My guess is further down the road, any aspirant is going to be vetted for whether they supported the Republican nominee,” he said. “But that’s down the road.”
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Where Bush goes in Texas politics is unclear. Murray noted that Republicans hold every statewide office and that primary challenges of incumbents are rare. He said Bush could bide his time until a higher office opens up — but waiting carries its own risks. As the state’s Hispanic population grows, he said, Democrats may well become more competitive.
“Texas in 2028 may not be so hospitable,” he said.