Republican U.S. presidential candidate Jeb Bush (left) speaks as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio looks during a Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015. Rick Wilking/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Jeb Bush's rebooted campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination included an apology to the French on Tuesday for making a joke about their work ethic.

"I made the mistake of saying that the Congress operates on a French workweek,” Bush told reporters in a deadpan voice while campaigning in New Hampshire, according to Time magazine. "I really did a disservice to the French."

During last week's debate among the Republican candidates, Bush had criticized one of his rivals, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, for missing votes, as well as Congress in general for working a three-day week.

"I mean, literally, the Senate - what is it, like a French workweek?" Bush had asked.

His comment drew a rebuke from French Ambassador Gerard Araud and emails from French journalists and was part of a lackluster debate performance for the former Florida governor.

"I now know that the average French workweek is actually greater than the German workweek," Time quoted Bush as saying. "So, my God, I totally insulted an entire country - our first ally, that helped us become free as a nation. And I apologize. That did a huge disservice to France."

Bush has seen his poll numbers slide in recent months and he sought on Monday to revive his prospects for the November 2016 election by starting a "Jeb Can Fix It Tour" in New Hampshire and releasing an e-book.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Peter Cooney)