The last two Republican presidents won’t even endorse their party’s presumptive nominee, real estate tycoon Donald Trump. In statements first sent to the Texas Tribune, both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush declared they would sit out 2016, and not even attend the July convention in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bush 41 has enthusiastically endorsed every Republican nominee for the past five election cycles, but will stay out of the process this time, spokesman Jim McGrath told the Tribune on Wednesday. Bush 41’s endorsement track record even extended to longtime political rival Bob Dole in 1996. “I’ll do anything Sen. Dole wants me to do — I’ll campaign for him,” Bush said. “My heart lies at this level, the Dole level.” That isn’t happening this year.
“At age 91, President Bush is retired from politics,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “He came out of retirement to do a few things for Jeb, but those were exceptions that proved the rule.” After dropping out in February, Bush 41’s son Jeb endorsed Ted Cruz in March.
Jeb’s brother, Bush 43, “does not plan to participate or comment on the presidential campaign,” his personal aide Freddy Ford told the Tribune.
While both Bush 41 and Bush 43 endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012 and campaigned with him, they avoided the Republican National Convention that year. Many speculated this was due to George W. Bush’s low approval ratings at the time — but now his approval ratings look much better.
In February, Trump attacked Bush 43, nearly blaming him for the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Bush replied by attacking The Donald’s temperament. “These are tough times, and I understand that Americans are angry and frustrated — but we do not need someone in the Oval Office who mirrors and inflames our anger and frustration,” he declared. “We need someone who can take a positive message across the entire country, someone who can inspire and appeal to people from all walks of life — not just one party or class of people.”
Despite George W. Bush’s high approval rating in South Carolina, Trump won the state — albeit with only a plurality of 32.5 percent — and took all of the delegates. This is, rather emphatically, an outsider year, so the Bushes’ non-endorsements might have just about the same impact as Bush 43’s attack did in South Carolina.