In shift, Jeb Bush turns to brother George W. for 2016 help

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The Next GOP Debate Is a Make or Break for Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush has played down his famous family roots in his pursuit of the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, but with his campaign in trouble, he turned on Monday to brother George W. Bush for a political morale boost.

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The former president appeared on stage with his younger brother before an important gathering of Bush donors in Houston, an event that the Bush team sought to use to calm jittery supporters alarmed by his months-long slide in the polls.

The Houston event was George W. Bush's first public campaign appearance for his brother, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the November 2016 presidential election. It marked a shift from Jeb Bush's use of his brother strictly for closed-door fund-raising events.

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In shift, Jeb Bush turns to brother George W. for 2016 help
GREENVILLE, SC - SEPTEMBER 18: Former Florida Governor and republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks to voters at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. Eleven republican candidates each had twenty five minutes to talk to voters Friday at the Bons Secours Wellness arena in the upstate of South Carolina. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JUNE 15: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush waves on stage as he announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination during an event at Miami-Dade College - Kendall Campus on June 15 , 2015 in Miami, Florida. Bush joins a list of Republican candidates to announce their plans on running against the Democrats for the White House. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 01: Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall style meeting at La Progresiva Presbyterian School on September 1, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Jeb continues to campaign for the Republican nomination. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (C) talks with members of the media as U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (L) (R-IA) and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R) (R-IA) look on during the Iowa State Fair on August 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 14: Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad eat a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on August 14, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage. The State Fair runs through August 23. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
AMHERST, NH - JULY 4: Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush greets supporters at the 4th of July Parade on July 4, 2015 in Amherst, New Hampshire. Bush is a front-runner in the polls for the 2016 presidential race with 14 other republican candidates. (Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images)
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George W. offered a strong testimonial for his brother, saying he would score well with Latino voters because of his welcoming stance on immigration. And he said Jeb would be prepared for unexpected challenges like he faced in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I am absolutely certain given his background and his steadiness that he'd be able to deal with the unexpected," said George W., according to a media pool report from the event.

The two men, sitting side by side on stage, offered chummy thoughts about growing up together. George W. poked fun at the cooking of their mother, Barbara Bush, as little more than boiling hot dogs.

"I remember it differently," said Jeb.

"Yeah, you're running for office," joked George W.

Since many of Jeb Bush's financial supporters were also backers of the two other Bush presidents and hold them in high regard, the presence of George W. Bush and their father George H.W. Bush at the two-day Houston event was a major selling point.

But wrapping himself tightly in the family mantle carries risks for Jeb Bush. Many Republicans want their next president to not be a third Bush, and some harbor resentment at George W. Bush for launching the Iraq war in 2003.

"Jeb is looking to strike a very careful balance, keeping the supporters of both his father's and his brother's campaigns embraced while not alienating folks that aren't very enthusiastic about a third Bush run," said Republican strategist Katie Packer, a senior aide to 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

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The Houston event marked what amounts to a new phase in the Bush campaign, coming days after his team announced deep cuts in payroll and staff to cope with slowing donations in response to challenges from outsider candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson.

Senior campaign aides laid out for the donors their case for why Bush can make it despite stiff headwinds. They stressed that the Republican battle, currently led by Trump and Carson, remains volatile and that Bush has the organizational strength to carry him to victory.

As part of the new phase, Bush next week will launch a "Jeb Can Fix It" tour to emphasize his record as a conservative reformer when he was governor of Florida.

The trip will include his first bus tour of the 2016 campaign, a two-day trip through New Hampshire.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)


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