Former AIG (NYSE:AIG) CEO Hank Greenberg says he has a remedy for Jeb Bush's persistently low polling numbers as the GOP 2016 presidential nomination heats up: "Stop being a gentleman."
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That's what the insurance magnate, who built American International Group into one of the world’s biggest companies before stepping down in 2005, told the former Florida governor yesterday during what was described as a 10 minute chat, the FOX Business Network has learned. Greenberg has contributed to various Republican candidates during his long career in business.
Greenberg confirmed the call and the substance of the conversation. "I told him he's got to stop trying to be a gentleman and he has to be himself but also he must act presidential," Greenberg said in a telephone interview with FOX Business. "And I think he's going to do it."
Bush’s poll numbers remain in the single digits compared to GOP front runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who poll between 20 percent and 30 percent in national polls among the Republican electorate. And despite initially raising more than $100 million for his campaign, Bush has recently been facing fundraising difficulties as his big money supporters hedge their bets with others in the field, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Last week, Bush reported his 3Q fundraising was $13.4 million.
With that Bush has been scrambling to raise money particularly from his base of support among the Wall Street elite and has rendered across-the-board cuts to his campaign budget, according to a Bush campaign memo obtained by FOX News.
Greenberg said Bush initiated the conversation though he wouldn't characterize it as a fundraising call. Earlier this month, Greenberg endorsed Bush for president and agreed to raise money for his campaign. "He called just to check in....we know each other a long time," Greenberg said. A Bush spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
Bush had been the nominal favorite to win the GOP 2016 presidential sweepstakes given his high name recognition (he's the brother and son of the last two Republican presidents) and his strong record as governor of Florida. But in a crowded field he has failed to gain much traction, mainly after turning in back-to-back lackluster performances in the two GOP debates.
Those debate performances lent credence to the criticism leveled at Bush by his chief antagonist on the campaign trial, Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and reality TV star, who has called Bush "low energy" in speeches and in an attack ad which featured a woman who fell asleep during a Bush rally.
Bush has also faced criticism for not being sufficiently conservative over such issues as immigration and the so-called "Common Core" national education standards that many on the right believe is an intrusion of the federal government on state-wide education issues.
Bush has so far mildly responded to Trump's verbal assaults, but Greenberg believes he will now start to fight harder and will overcome his early-stage problems by touting his successful record as Florida governor where he cut taxes and grew the state's economy, and by being tougher against critics going forward.
"I think he would make a great president, I think he's going to do what I ask him," Greenberg said.