George W. Bush stars in new Jeb political ad.

Jeb Bush Is Finally Embracing His Brother and His Last Name

Jeb Bush Is Finally Embracing His Brother and His Last Name

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Feb. 4 2016 6:04 PM

Jeb Bush Is Turning to His Big Brother for Help

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Former President George W. Bush speaks during an event at Warren Easton High School to mark the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 28, 2015 in New Orleans.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Jeb Bush is finally turning to his big brother for help. Politico reports that, starting Friday, the Jeb-backing Right to Rise super PAC will begin airing a new ad in South Carolina featuring George W. Bush. “The first job of the president is to protect America,” the former president says in the 30-second spot during which he speaks directly to the camera. “The next president must be prepared to lead. I know Jeb. I know his good heart and his strong backbone.”

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

President Bush’s return to campaign politics has been in the works for a while. He was enlisted early by his brother to help solicit big-dollar donations from his family’s sprawling network of the conservative rich and richer, and Jeb’s campaign began hinting as early as this past October that it might use W. in the lead up to South Carolina’s Feb. 20 primary. Still, the super PAC-produced ad marks the first time that the nation’s 43rd president has taken such a public role in his brother’s efforts to become the 45th. (It’s also yet another example of how candidates and campaigns work in tandem while still somehow claiming not to be coordinating with one another.)

Jeb spent the early part of his presidential campaign awkwardly trying to distance himself from his family name. He chose posters and slogans that referred to himself simply as Jeb!, and he went out of his way to tell voters skeptical of political dynasties that he was his own man. Yet through it all, he struggled to offer even the mildest—or most obvious!—criticisms of his brother and father’s presidential legacies.

More recently, though, he’s stopped running from his family’s name and begun running towards it. His mother, Barbara, is set to campaign with him in New Hampshire on Thursday. And his brother is similarly expected to finally hit the trail later this month in South Carolina. Such a public family reunion risks further cementing Jeb as a political insider at a time when the anti-establishment winds are blowing so strongly—but it’s hard to believe there are a whole lot of voters out there who are only now learning that Jeb is the son of one former U.S. president and the brother of another. Regardless, Bush seems to have realized he doesn’t have much to lose at this point. "My dad and brother ... were presidents of the United States—fine, I'll take it," Jeb said on the Fox News debate stage last week. "I guess I'm part of the establishment because Barbara Bush is my mom. I'll take that, too.”