Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday once again referred to businessman Donald Trump as the Republican presidential front-runner, saying that while Mr. Trump has tapped into people’s legitimate grievances with Washington, the real estate mogul is still “all about him.”
“Here’s a guy, larger than life,” Mr. Bush said at a town hall in Virginia. “It’s all about him. … I wake up thinkin,’ ‘Wow, people are really struggling and suffering.’”
He said he meets so many people who are just pessimistic about the future of their families.
“That’s what I focus on, that’s what I think about: how do we make sure that people can be lifted up,” said Mr. Bush, also a 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “For him, it’s all about him, but he has tapped into, because he’s so different than people in public life, he’s tapped into this anger and angst that Washington’s not working. I totally get it.”
Mr. Bush was speaking at a town hall at a VFW Post in Norfolk. He was joined by former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, who endorsed Mr. Bush’s campaign Thursday.
Mr. Cantor lost his 2014 primary contest to GOP Rep. Dave Brat in a stunning upset and later took a job as vice chairman and managing director at the investment firm Moelis & Company. Mr. Brat had painted Mr. Cantor, who has a deep fundraising network both in Virginia and across the country, as a D.C. insider cozy with corporate interests.
“And I respect the fact that, look, this is a guy who’s the front-runner — he should be treated like a front-runner, not as some kind of alternative universe to the political system,” Mr. Bush said. “And if that’s the case, then you’re [going to] have a different conversation about Mr. Trump.”
Mr. Bush mentioned his own record of cutting taxes, compared to Mr. Trump, who has hinted at a tax plan that hedge fund workers aren’t going to like, Mr. Trump’s past comments about a single-payer health care system, his past position on partial-birth abortions, and his past support for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential front-runner.
“So, if he’s going to be held to account, I respect the fact that people are supporting him for legitimate reasons of anger about the dysfunction in Washington,” Mr. Bush said. “But when they hear what his views are, the cost of building of, you know, the whole immigration deal, it’s not a conservative proposal he’s making. It’s going to cost hundreds of billions of dollars, violate civil liberties, challenge our freedom in so many ways.”
“Let’s have a debate about the ideas that people have as candidates, and when they do, I think I’ll do a lot better than Mr. Trump,” he said.
Mr. Trump has been a frequent critic of Mr. Bush, routinely chiding the former Florida governor as being “low-energy.”
Earlier at the event Friday, Mr. Bush had said he thinks it’s “politically counterproductive” to say someone is “stupid, or someone’s an idiot, or all this stuff that we now hear in the political discourse.”
“This really — it has no relevance to the challenges we face,” Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Trump said earlier on Friday that he singled out Mr. Bush because he had seen him as a threat — but that he’s slipped in recent polling.
“If you look at the polls, he’s not really second anymore. He’s fourth and fifth in a lot of the polls. … I’ve always assumed that he was going to be a primary competitor. And I guess that’s why I’m hitting him harder than others,” Mr. Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
Mr. Bush is in third, behind Mr. Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, in the latest Real Clear Politics average on the 2016 GOP field.
“You know, I like him. He’s a nice person. He is a low-energy person, there’s no question about it,” Mr. Trump said. “And, you know, I think we need much more than a low energy person right now to put this country back in shape. We need tremendous energy and tremendous smarts and tremendous cunning and all of the things that other countries have.”