Former President George W. Bush told House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, that he was a "savior" for endorsing President Joe Biden at a critical moment during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary and helping ensure his victory, Clyburn told reporters.
Bush told Clyburn during the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday that Biden was the only Democrat capable of beating former President Donald Trump.
"George Bush said to me today, 'You know, you're the savior because if you had not nominated Joe Biden, we would not be having this transfer of power today,'" Clyburn told reporters during a call on Wednesday.
The congressman added, "He said to me, 'Joe Biden was the only one who could have defeated the incumbent president.'"
By late February in 2020, Clyburn's endorsement effectively revived Biden's Democratic primary campaign.
Heading into the South Carolina primary, Biden was coming off of back-to-back humiliations in Iowa and New Hampshire, where he was unable to finish in the top three — normally a death knell for most presidential campaigns, given the slim odds of even competing for the nomination beyond that point.
However, with Clyburn earning substantial credibility with older Black voters in the Palmetto State over the decades, his endorsement ultimately proved to be the catalyst for Biden's rebound. The president ended up winning South Carolina in a landslide, and quickly consolidated support after following that up with a stellar Super Tuesday performance, proving he had the most Black support in the primary and thus outflanking Bernie Sanders among the rest of the electorate.
The remarks from Bush were uncharacteristic given his generally low profile since leaving the White House and avoiding partisanship.
Bush's chief of staff, Freddy Ford, attempted to downplay the former president's comments, tweeting, "Let's not make this into more than it is. He was saying Clyburn helped saved Biden's nomination....nothing Biblical here."
Trump has long been critical of Bush and repeatedly condemned some of his actions as president, including his wars in the Middle East. Bush didn't campaign for Trump and did not support his fellow Republican's reelection bid. Bush reportedly reacted to Trump's inaugural address by saying, "that was some weird s--t."
But the 43rd president has maintained a notably low profile since leaving office in 2009, occasionally releasing public statements at significant moments of national distress, including most recently condemning the insurrection by a pro-Trump mob at the Capitol.