Considering all the jabs both he and his brother are receiving from Donald Trump on the campaign trail, one would think President George W. Bush would have some less-than-kind remarks to make about the GOP frontrunner. But at a fundraising event in Denver, the former president surprised many in the room with a brutally honest admission about Sen. Ted Cruz.
“I just don’t like the guy,” he said Sunday to roughly 100 donors, reports Politico.
“The tenor of what he said about the other candidates was really pretty pleasant,” one donor said. “Until he got to Cruz.”
“I was like … ‘did he just say that?’” another donor said. “I remember looking around and seeing that other people were also looking around surprised.”
Bush reportedly felt that it was Cruz, not Trump, Carson, or Rubio—the top three contenders at the moment—who poses the most serious threat to his brother’s candidacy.
George W. Bush is well acquainted with his home-state senator, who served as a domestic policy adviser on his 2000 campaign before rising to national prominence by distancing himself from — and often going out of his way to antagonize — the GOP establishment. In his book published earlier this year, Cruz ripped Bush’s record, criticizing elements of his foreign policy and faulting the administration for enabling "bigger government and excessive spending and new entitlements."
While Jeb Bush’s campaign is spending far more time of late pushing out information that contrasts favorably with Rubio, his oldest brother seemed to see Cruz as the biggest threat in the end. According to several donors, the former president said not to doubt Cruz’s strength.
“He said he thought Cruz was going to be a pretty formidable candidate against Jeb, especially in Texas and across the South,” a donor said.
He also weighed in on the Texas senator’s relationship with Trump, who appeared with the real estate mogul at a rally against the Iran deal on Captiol Hill last month. Similarly, Trump, who’s attacked just about every other GOP candidate, has steered clear of criticizing Cruz.
According to donors, Bush feels Cruz is being ‘opportunistic’ and just expects Trump’s supporters to come over to him in the end—something he’s stated publicly, but which Trump’s campaign finds preposterous.
A spokesman for the former president pushed back, however, saying that he doesn’t “view Sen. Cruz as Gov. Bush’s most serious rival.”
When asked for comment, Sen. Ted Cruz had nothing but kind words.
“I have great respect for George W Bush, and was proud to work on his 2000 campaign and in his administration," Cruz said. "It's no surprise that President Bush is supporting his brother and attacking the candidates he believes pose a threat to his campaign. I have no intention of reciprocating. I met my wife Heidi working on his campaign, and so I will always be grateful to him."