Looking to step out from his brother’s shadow, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush reached out to the largest annual gathering of conservatives on Friday, telling the thousands in attendance that in order to rebound from the disappointment of November, Republicans “need to be the party of inclusion and acceptance.”
“I am here to tell you that there is no ‘us’ and ‘them,’” Mr. Bush said, in a thinly veiled jab at the “47” percent comments that GOP nominee Mitt Romney made on the 2012 campaign trail. “We need to be the party of inclusion and acceptance.”
Mr. Bush, who served as governor in Florida from 1999 to 2008, has not ruled out a run for president, and his appearance at CPAC prompted political onlookers to opine that the biggest hurdle standing in front of him could very well be the legacy of former President George W. Bush, his brother.
Conservatives look back with horror at a series of moves made by the Bush administration, in particular the big government policies he pushed and the pile of national debt that he left in his wake.
Working to raise his profile in the wake of the 2012 election, the younger Bush has been making the rounds on national television networks to promote a new book that he inked with Clint Bolick, called “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” that offers the GOP a roadmap forward on the thorny issue of immigration.
Mr. Bush, though, has muddied his message by announcing during his roll out that he was open to a pathway to citizenship for the millions of illegal immigrations living here as part of comprehensive immigration reform — something he does not advocate in the book.
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In response, Mr. Bush has emphasized the book was written last year, and the immigration debate has since changed.
In his speech here Friday, Mr. Bush called for the United States to tap into new technology and its energy resources — moves that, he said, would help the nation move away from a foreign policy dominated by oil.
Mr. Bush also said the party could make inroads with a broader slice of the electorate by embracing school choice, pushing forward on immigration reform and putting a greater emphasis on making personal relationships with voters of all stripes.
“Never again, never again can the Republican simply write off certain segments of the society because we assume our principles have limited appeal,” Mr .Bush said. “They have broader appeal.”
Mr. Bush won some more headlines for asking CPAC officials to leave his name off The Washington Times-sponsored straw poll, which takes the temperature of conservatives as they look to toward the 2016 presidential race.
The GOP has been doing some soul-searching on how to do a better job of courting Hispanic voters, which overwhelmingly swung their support behind President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, helping the Democrat overcome high unemployment and mountains of debt to win a second term.