George W. Bush to raise money for Rick Scott in Palm Beach

Updated Sept 11, 2018
Former President George W. Bush during a 2006 appearance in Boca Raton. He will return to Palm Beach County on Friday to raise money for Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate bid. (Bob Shanley/The Palm Beach Post)

Florida Gov. Rick Scott will raise money for his U.S. Senate bid with a Republican president here, but it won’t be with Mar-a-Lago proprietor and current White House occupant Donald Trump.

Instead, former President George W. Bush — the embodiment of a GOP establishment that Trump railed against in 2016 — will appear with Scott in Tampa and Palm Beach on Friday.

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In Palm Beach, invitations have been issued for a $50,000-a-head afternoon reception with Bush and Scott for the New Republican PAC and for a $1,000-to-$25,000 fundraiser to jointly benefit Scott’s campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The specific locations for the events have not been made public.

The fundraisers highlight a tightrope act for Scott.

He has been a close Trump ally and was publicly urged by the president to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. But since launching his campaign in April, Scott has kept his distance from the president.

Now he’s seeking a financial boost from a figure who was the target of harsh Trump attacks in 2016 and has offered oblique criticism of Trump, most recently at John McCain’s funeral.

During the battle for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, Scott was one of the first Republican elected officials to praise Trump. He stopped short of a formal primary endorsement but credited Trump with “capturing the frustration of many Americans” at a time when fellow Floridian Jeb Bush was still an active candidate.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump charged that George W. Bush “lied” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and failed to protect the country against the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. George W. Bush and Jeb Bush were conspicuously absent from the 2016 Republican National Convention and both declined to endorse Trump in the general election.

Scott chaired a pro-Trump super PAC in 2016 and, after Trump’s election, met and dined with the president several times in Washington and Florida.

But Scott and Trump have had little public interaction since April. Scott flew on Air Force One with Trump to Tampa in July and accompanied the president in a visit to a technical high school, but didn’t go from there to a more high-profile Trump campaign rally.

Scott turned to the Trump administration for fundraising help last week, but it was from Vice President Mike Pence, who appeared with Scott in Orlando and The Villages.

Scott’s campaign dismissed suggestions the governor is avoiding Trump, whose approval ratings have been slightly below water in most Florida polls.

“Gov. Scott is glad to accept the support of President Bush, Vice President Pence, and anyone who shares his views that we need to reform Washington. The governor appreciated the president endorsing his race when he came to Tampa in July,” said Scott campaign spokesman Chris Hartline.

Boca Raton GOP activist Joe Budd, an early supporter of Trump’s presidential bid and now the leader of a local Trump booster club, said he isn’t bothered by Scott calling in a Trump foe for fundraising help.

“I don’t have an issue with him campaigning with George W,” said Budd, who is also the Palm Beach County GOP’s state committeeman. “Obviously George W’s still a very well-liked former president and if he can help him raise money, I think that’s a positive.”