January 26th, 2012
04:39 PM ET
6 years ago

Jeb Bush offers no endorsement, but a warning

(CNN) - Five days ahead of his state's primary – an election in which he promises to remain neutral – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Thursday cautioned the contenders to soften their assaults, avoid a "circular firing squad," and connect personally with swing voters in the most diverse primary yet.

"If we do nothing to try to reach out to voters that believe in our values but feel turned off by the rhetoric, that is the dumbest thing in the world to do," he said in an interview to air on CNN's "John King, USA," when asked if a breach is forming between Latino voters and the GOP.

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His warning to "not go over the top in his attacks" was primarily aimed at former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who continued the sparring between himself and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by calling his rival "grotesquely hypocritical." The jabs exchanged between the two leading contenders has only increased as the campaign moved to Florida, with the two-man jousting largely overshadowing attention paid to the two other candidates former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

"I think there's a point past which Republicans and independent voters get turned off by this fierce primary spilling over into personal attacks," he continued, adding "I would hope that both Gov. Romney and Speaker Gingrich would stay away from that."

Both his father and brother were former presidents, but Bush said that if he, too, had been interested in a White House run, this election season would have been the ripest. Earlier in January, former first lady Laura Bush said she wished Jeb, her brother-in-law, would run, saying, "We wanted him to this time."

"Never say never, but in all honesty, this was probably the right time for me, in terms of my age and just the opportunity that existed but there are personal and family reasons that made that impossible," Bush said in the interview. "I hope in 2016 I'll be working on the reelection of a Republican president."

He said he has both spoken with and emailed Romney to express his decision to remain neutral.

The field without him includes "well qualified candidates," Bush said, who must emphasize the relevancy of their messages to Florida's significant and swing Latino voters next Tuesday. He is co-chair of the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference, a co-sponsor of Thursday evening's debate on CNN.

"The growing populations in all of the swing states are Hispanic voters," he said. "This is an over-simplification, but I don't think a party can aspire to be the majority party if it's the old white guy party."

While his advice to Gingrich is to tone down the attacks, Bush suggested Romney should connect more personally with voters.

"His challenge is also to show his heart," he said of Romney "He has a great record, and he's been a successful man in every way, and I think people can relate to that if he expresses himself in the right way."

But Bush said he intends to endorse no candidate in the race, instead allowing one "earn" his victory.

"I've already voted, I voted absentee," he told John King, "and thank God it's a secret ballot, John."

Also see:

Obama shares intense encounter with Arizona governor

Gingrich shoots for the moon

Bachmann will run for reelection

Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Jeb Bush • Mitt Romney • Newt Gingrich
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Jake

    Sorry Jeb, but your family has contributed GREATLY to the disaster of your party and America! And we all understand that you are trying to lay out diplomacy in hopes that there will still be a Republican party to nominate you for a future run. Good luck with that!

    January 26, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  2. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    avoid a "circular firing squad,"
    But this is exactly why the LSM is having so many of these "debates"!

    January 26, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Blah, blah, blah. The designated neocon elite spokesman has made his announcement. Now get in line and follow orders.

    January 26, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. v_mag

    Everytime a voter sees one of the Bush crime family, that voter will remember what those mobsters did to this country. He or she may then decide to stay home or vote for Obama, come November. Good job, Jeb! You are doing your country a favor, at last.

    January 26, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. sonny chapman

    The Royal Family is warning the Court to "get in line" lest they lose their power to the peasants.

    January 26, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    No more Bush's in the white house EVER.

    January 26, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  7. twang

    Fla. elected a BUSH for gov. They should'nt even be allowed to vote if they are that dumb

    January 26, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. vic , nashville ,tn

    Arizona, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia already did the damaged , I don’t think Latinos will go back and support GOP candidate

    January 26, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. anagram_kid

    Mr. Bush does not understand that if there is one thing that Mr. Gingrich does well it is connect with voters. Well, certain voters at least. He does this by pandering to their raw emotion in terms of how the logical, intelligent, tall, slim, educated, charismatic man that currently occupies the white house makes them feel about themselves – in a word, inferior. These are the people that cheer for a man who cheated on at least two wives when asked to comment on the subject. Mr. Gingrich plays them like a fiddle. Thankfully there are not enough of these people to win a general election.
    Obama 2012 – Because the founding fathers got at least one thing right – only adults should be president

    January 26, 2012 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. Taran

    I keep trying to post things and they never get past the moderator, unless they are critial of one of the GOP candidates. I notice a few conservatives make it through with regularity, Truth and Nothing But, Fair is Fair, Wiredwierd. But it appears they are allowed to comment as targets for the liberal shots.

    January 26, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. Nash

    Perhaps this governor is looking down on his fellow Republicans in the race. What? Are they not as good as the Bush brand? "It was the right year for me". Pleaaaase. I would never vote for another bush in my entire lifetime.

    January 26, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  12. Fla Pete

    Jeb's for sale,he can get ya votes,throw your opponents votes in the dumpster,like he did for his bro against Kerry.Hes got a Latino wife,she can translate for you,great package deals on voters who don't care who they vote for,just for a buck..Ask him,that's why NOBODY in the Bush family has said crap since he left office,except maybe on Faux news.The whole Bush family ingreats,unpure and simple.

    January 26, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. tr

    "both his father and brother ARE former presidents"...though they've kinda ruined it for him, the brightest star in the bunch.

    January 26, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. "WARNING"

    So my question to the former governor is, SINCE BOTH YOUR FATHER AND BROTHER served as POTUS how do you feel about the attacks on Obama, do you feel they should soften their tone there as well. I have been voting for over 40 years, I get turned off about those who in my old school opinion, regardless how you feel the office of POTUS has to be RESPECTED, the out right bashing for me is in poor taste. Disagree with his policies but that's it. Not to mention that other countries are listening how we American elected official attacks their own leader, very disrespectfull

    January 26, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  15. donna

    It's quite absurd to elect the president in this manner. They should be able to host powerpoint presentations with facts and figures to back up their plans to improve the USA. Instead we get a soundbite or talking point, and a couple of jabs that cause the audience to applause after which there is a stead rise in the popularity for one of the candidates.

    I mean, geez, this stuff is important, why are we demanding that these so-called leaders show us their visions for our future?

    January 26, 2012 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  16. Paul1st

    The GOP primaries are no less vicious as the Democratic primaries in 2008 where Bill Clinton was playing the heavy. The attacks on Obama were equally as vicious and yet he won the general election. It seems the GOP establishment calls to tone down the rhetoric are intended more to give Romney a boost in the face of Gingrich's aggressive campaigning. But, how does that old adage go? If you can't take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen.

    January 26, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  17. 2012liberal

    I m sure yr vote went 2 mitt since rove was n the bush family back pocket 4 yrs and rove is main funder thru super pac 4 mitt now!

    January 26, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. Cyrus

    I think he voted for Obama.

    January 26, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. Lolo

    Too late for the warning. Our minds are already made up.The republican party is nothing but a joke. Full of liars, racist and hypocrits. Bye Bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Who cares what any Bush thinks anymore? Sadly, JEB's image will be forever tarnished by his insolent and inept little brother who brough complete disgrace to the presidency and this country.

    January 26, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  21. Steve Moore Smithton, Mo.

    Jeb is smart enough to realize that another Bush running for President may not be healthy. He can say what he wants and keep on breathing but a run for the White House could well be a risk not worth taking. People are mad at his brother in ways that promote violence and unpredictable behavior. Check the secret service files, Sadaam wasn't the only person trying to silence a Bush and several were red-blooded Americans right here at home.

    January 26, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  22. b in fl

    go back in your cave jebbbb

    January 26, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. BQ

    Translation - My brother really f'ed it up for me so you two be careful how you go after each other. You're making it so no one will want either one of you and goodness knows, the American public doesn't want to see the likes of a Bush any time soon.

    January 26, 2012 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Jim in San Mateo

    He says "I hope in 2016 I'll be working on the reelection of a Republican president". Kind of implies that he doesn't think any of the current field has a shot. I'm sure President Obama thanks Jeb for his support.

    January 26, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  25. Ben Dover

    Who really cares what ANY Bush family member thinks!!!!

    January 26, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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