Jeb Bush woos crowd in Leesville

Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks to a crowd of more than 200 at Shealy’s Bar-B-Que on Tuesday. Bush took questions from the crowd before another campaign event in Aiken.

LEESVILLE — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush hit the campaign trail visibly amped a day after his brother made a long-awaited return to politics, stumping for him in North Charleston.

The Republican presidential candidate’s first public stop on Tuesday was at Shealy’s Bar-B-Que, the same spot George W. Bush visited during his 2000 White House bid. Though George W. Bush is not expected to join his brother for the rest of the week, their mother, Barbara, will be in the state Thursday through Saturday morning.

Many of those in the crowd at Shealy’s were disappointed to learn they wouldn’t be catching a glimpse of the former president, but they still seemed delighted to see Jeb Bush.

Sam Montgomery of West Columbia said he walked in to see Bush speak on Tuesday as a supporter of U.S. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. But it wasn’t the former president campaigning for his brother that made Montgomery change sides — it was seeing and hearing Jeb Bush himself.

“Jeb has made a believer out of me,” Montgomery said. “He had a very poor start and he didn’t stand up for himself, but he’s learned how to fight against Donald (Trump). Unfortunately there are too many people who have bought into Trump.”

Bush did spend most of the event Tuesday attacking the credentials of both Rubio and Trump. He likened Rubio’s lack of experience to that of President Barack Obama’s. He also was more critical of Trump, adding that he doesn’t believe Trump should be allowed to hijack the Republican Party.

“You’re looking at the only guy who confronts him,” Bush said. “Everybody else ... is in the witness protection program. Bullies need to be confronted.”

His stump speech didn’t fully convince everyone in the crowd, however. Tim DuBose of Columbia said he left undecided.

“I’m still wavering between Rubio, Cruz and Bush,” DuBose said.

Bush had one more stop Tuesday after Shealy’s in Aiken.