Attorney General Bill Schuette has endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and will chair his Republican presidential campaign in Michigan, the campaign said Wednesday.
Schuette will be joined by a team that includes finance co-chairs and donors C. Michael Kojaian and David T. Fischer, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. David Trott of Birmingham, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and former U.S. Sen. Spence Abraham.
Schuette, considered a likely candidate for Michigan governor in three years, has a 35-year history with the Bush family, previously working on campaigns for George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush.
“There are many talented candidates seeking the presidency in the Republican Party, but in my view Jeb is the best candidate,” Schuette said on a Wednesday conference call.
“Jeb as governor has had a conservative record — a stellar record of accomplishment,” he said, mentioning tax cuts, increasing the state’s budget surplus and expanding reading initiatives, in particular.
He stressed the importance of Bush’s stronghold in a large, swing state such as Florida and the need for a candidate who can communicate, organize and out-fundraise Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“The real clash here, the real distinction is, do we want a third Obama term, or a do we want a presidency with Jeb that means we have domestic policies that increase jobs and paychecks, reduces taxes, reforms our health care system?” Schuette said.
“And foreign policy-wise, you have a president who makes America strong, (with a) national defense capability second to none, where our allies trust us and our adversaries fear us. And we don’t have that now.”
Schuette said Bush can gain ground on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, likening the primary race to a “marathon” and “hand-to-hand combat,” He added that Bush has the endurance, the message and the staff in place to win.
“Jeb is going to grind this out,” Schuette said.
Trump leads the crowded GOP field in early polls with 22 percent, with Bush ranking second at 10.7 percent, according to an average of recent surveys compiled by Real Clear Politics. The Michigan primary is March 8.
The attorney general, who served as chairman of Mitt Romney’s 2012 Michigan presidential campaign, said several Republican candidates approached him seeking his endorsement.
“It’s been no secret about my long friendship with the Bush family,” Schuette said. “I think most of the folks anticipated that in my decision.”
Schuette said his relationship with Jeb Bush dates back to when Schuette was a “fresh-faced kid out of law school” managing George H.W. Bush’s campaign for president in Florida from 1979-80. He said he and Jeb used to play basketball together.
Bush visited Michigan in February for a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, describing his vision for a “right to rise society” and connecting that plan to Detroit's emergence from Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Bush is next expected in Michigan on Sept. 18, when he speaks at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island. Five other GOP candidates are also in the conference line-up.
The last Republican presidential candidate to win Michigan was George H.W. Bush in 1988.