“This is Bush Country,” Arrington said. “This is where George W. Bush grew up and came back to work. This is his home.”
Arrington worked first for Bush when he was Texas governor, following him to the White House, where he was stationed in the Office of Presidential Personnel. Arrington later moved to the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
“The president’s mindset was results-oriented,” said Clay Johnson, an Arrington ally who was Bush’s chief of staff as governor and his deputy director for Management at the Office of Management and Budget. Arrington “has got that mindset.”
But ties to the Bush name aren’t necessarily a lock for success, even in a state where the family built its brand. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune survey released this month, 25 percent of Texas Republican voters said they would definitely not support Jeb Bush, the highest of any GOP candidate.
“It’s not as if the Bush name is particularly current right now,” said Jim Henson, the poll’s codirector. “It’s a very different Republican Party.”
The Bush name may also become fodder for attacks.
In 2014, when Griffin tried to unseat Jones from his coastal North Carolina district, he was tagged as a carpetbagger and a Washington insider. Griffin—who worked for George W. Bush in the White House, on his 2004 reelection campaign and at the Treasury Department—lost to Jones by 6 points in the GOP primary.
The Jones team plans to use that line of attack against Griffin again, a source close to his campaign said. The other Republican in the primary, Marine Corps veteran Phil Law, also said he’s planning to also turn Griffin’s Washington experience into a negative.
“This country wants fresh blood and new leadership,” Law said.
But Griffin maintains his Bush ties are an advantage—and an experience he’ll highlight often. He pointed to his time working in the Treasury Department, where he tracked down terrorist financing, as a key accomplishment.
“It has uniquely prepared me to be effective at helping to get conservative values accomplished,” Griffin said.
George W. Bush’s approval rating has also soared since he left Washington. In June, a CNN/ORC poll found that 52 percent had a favorable view of the former president, while 43 percent reported an unfavorable view. When he left office in 2009, just one-third of Americans rated him positively.
In the moderate San Diego-area seat that Gitsham is running in, Bush’s name might play differently.
The state’s quirky primary system also means the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party. That puts Gitsham in the same primary as Peters and one other Republican opponent, Marine Corps combat veteran Jacquie Atkinson.
Gitsham—who worked in the White House’s Office of Agency Liaison and for the President's Commission on White House Fellows—said she won’t “hide” from her biography on the trail. But she emphasized her Bush ties aren’t a big part of her campaign.