Last week, Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced his candidacy for Texas attorney general. Although he’s related to two former Republican presidents, Bush's campaign video only mentions one GOP name: Donald Trump.
“Under the leadership of President Trump our country was strong and vibrant again, but because of the failed leadership of liberal ideas, our country is suffering,” Bush says in the ad.
Many have speculated that Bush is trying to distance himself from his family’s political dynasty. His uncle, former President George W. Bush, and father, Jeb, have been outspoken Trump critics.
Yet while political observers believe that George P. Bush is vying for an endorsement, some say Trump’s influence may have begun to wane.
Bush and Trump have spoken highly of one another in recent months. In late May, Politico reported that Trump has called the land commissioner “the only Bush who got it right.”
After the release of the campaign ad, critics were quick to point out what they viewed as Bush’s misplaced loyalty. Another attorney general candidate, Joe Jaworski, said in a video posted to Twitter that Trump will ultimately “hand-pick” which candidate will win the Republican primary.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt also took to Twitter to call out the Republican’s fealty to Trump as “embarrassing.”
“I figured @georgepbush would run against Ken Paxton in the Republican primary for Texas attorney general,” Merritt said in a tweet. “I never thought that he would forsake his own dad while clamoring for an endorsement from Trump.”
I figured @georgepbush would run against Ken Paxton in the Republican primary for Texas attorney general.— S. Lee Merritt, Esq. (@MeritLaw) June 3, 2021
I never thought that he would forsake his own dad while clamoring for an endorsement from Trump.
Embarrassing really— but I think Texas is headed in a different direction. pic.twitter.com/jhFgUoWPZj
But not everyone buys the idea that Bush is distancing himself from his family. Jason Vaughn, policy director for the Texas Young Republicans, believes Bush simply recognizes his last name’s clout has faded in recent years.
“If you look at who has more influence right now, I definitely think it’s President Trump,” Vaughn said. “President Trump is going to definitely remain a force to be reckoned with when it comes to endorsements.”
Take Susan Wright for example, a Republican candidate for Texas’ 6th Congressional District. After she secured Trump’s endorsement, Wright’s election day results far outweighed her early voting performance, Vaughn said.
Trump will continue to be a key player in Texas politics, at least for the next couple of cycles, Vaughn added. At the same time, anyone who relies on a Trump endorsement without putting in the work would be “foolish.”
Gov. Greg Abbott has also hitched his wagon to Trump, earning the former president’s endorsement last week. On Wednesday, Abbott posted a photo of a handwritten note signed by Trump, which read, “Greg — YOU WILL WIN BIG!"
Still, not every political candidate who’s sought Trump’s approval has actually won, said professor Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, chair of the political science department at the University of North Texas. Case in point: despite being “all in for Trump,” Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther lost her recent bid for state Senate.
“I would predict that [Trump’s] influence is going to continue to wane,” Eshbaugh-Soha said.
But Bush is likely under the impression that he’d do better siding with Trump than his own kin, Eshbaugh-Soha said. Family names carry great weight, but they can also backfire. Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton learned that lesson in 2016, as did Jeb Bush when he ran in that year’s Republican presidential primary.
Bush could simply be trying to stand on his own merit, Eshbaugh-Soha said. Either way, with the election still more than a year out, he has plenty of time to change tack.
Aligning oneself with Trump can be a risk for people, he said. Sometimes, the former president can be unpredictable, and he’s humiliated even some of his most loyal contemporaries.
Bush and his team will have to strategize how to keep Trump close without getting crushed in a bearhug, Eshbaugh-Soha said.
“You have to be careful when you’re playing with fire,” he said. “So many people who have touched Trump — some have benefited — but look at Mike Pence. People were willing to execute him.”
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