Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush followed through Friday on his promise not to pander to the party’s activists base, standing his ground on a couple of thorny issues that most grass-roots conservatives can’t stomach.
In a highly anticipated appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Bush did not waiver in his support for Common Core K-12 education standards and an immigration fix that legalizes the millions of people living here illegally.
“The simple fact is there is no plan to deport 11 million people,” Mr. Bush said. “We should give them a path to legal status.”
On Common Core, Mr. Bush slapped down the notion that the K-12 standards are a federal takeover. “No,” he said.
Mr. Bush was one of a half-dozen likely 2016 candidates to address the thousands of activists Friday that converged on the Gaylord National Resort in Convention Center just outside Washington.
Running near the front of the pack in early polls, Mr. Bush has strong backing of major donors within the GOP establishment, which has made activists doubt whether he will go to bat for them if elected president.
The anti-Bush sentiment came through in the form of a small informal protest, where Will Temple, a member of the Golden Isles Tea Party, and band of followers walked out shortly after Mr. Bush took the stage.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham set the tone earlier in the day, likening Mr. Bush’s politics to those of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is seen as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.
“Why don’t we just call it quits, and Jeb and Hillary can run on the same ticket?” Mrs. Ingraham said. “I am designing the bumper sticker. It could be ‘Clush 2016: What Difference Does It Make?’”
Later in the day, the crowd booed Mr. Bush when Fox News host Sean Hannity did an informal survey of the likely crop of GOP candidates.
Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ben Carson received the warmest receptions.
Mr. Bush, though, received a warm response from the audience when he took the stage later in the day and garnered applause on several occasions.
The 62-year-old said the nation must reform its tax code and reduce regulations in order to spur more economic growth. He also said the party must expand its base of support to put a Republican in The White House.
“There are a lot of other conservatives that haven’t been asked, they don’t know that they’re conservative,” Mr. Bush said. “If we share our enthusiasm and love for our country and belief in our philosophy we will be able get get Latinos and young people and other people that you need to win.”
On immigration, he said the nation should secure its borders and said the young illegal immigrant children that poured across the southwestern border last year should have been sent back.
He also did not back down from his support the bill that Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed into law last year that provided in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants who attend public colleges and universities.