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. Rick McDaniel

    That problem will only get worse, under Obama, as he encourages and protects illegal immigration across our border.

    January 26, 2012 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  2. kayla

    somehow those bushes think the own america.

    January 26, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. Hair bear

    Isn't it amazing how none of these crooks in the GOP cares not to Endorse a candidate? Makes U Wonder?

    January 26, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. tumbleweed

    Taran, you get blocked because you're a redneck. CNN will only alow the afore mentioned rednecks to post because they are so much fun to make fun of.

    January 26, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. GotThumbs

    While I agree the bickering must end....I'm NOT going to marry any of the candidates. I WANT a leader who will make the decisions for America to bring it out of the nose dive were currently in. Obama is NOT the man do this. I'm sure he's a "Nice Guy"....someone you'd like to have a beer with....but I want a fighter in the WH. Obama is not that man....Carter was not that man. Nice guys.....who do you want in your corner....fighting for YOU? Keep focused on the REAL job ahead of each person....and who do you think will be MOST effective.

    January 26, 2012 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  6. GOP = Greed Over People

    "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."


    Jeb, isn't he the father of Grandma Bush's "little brown ones"?

    January 26, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. GotThumbs

    Question...Why does CNN CHOOSE to have moderators? Why can't you just trust that those participating...will flag any inappropriate comments? I'm NOT a child...but you seem to think we all are. Interesting in that CNN is a democratic leaning company....yes, company...owned by a media company.

    Time for a political change....

    January 26, 2012 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  8. Dick Cheney is the smegma of mankind

    If your party handles the next 4 years of President Obama's administration like it has the last 3, there will not be a GOP in 2016!

    Just a bunch of splinter groups, all howling "teleprompter" and "socialist Kenyan" at the moon.

    January 26, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  9. Jamie from Riverside

    Wonderful! More of the Bush family should be out in front flapping their lips to remind the country who ruined it.

    January 26, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  10. steve harnack

    in other words, it's stupid to admit how you actually feel about Hispanic, women, gays, non-christians and each other. These are all things that, as Mitt says "should only be talked about in quiet rooms". quote end quote.

    January 26, 2012 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  11. SoSad

    Your wrong Jeb, its not your time, thanks to your brother. I will say that you want Gringrich and Romney to tone down their rhetoric, for what? So that they whispers their thoughts to those people who do not want Hispanic's on their side?
    Let them keep talking so that we can hear them say what is their hearts! Republicans are all about class warfare, the party of NO!

    January 26, 2012 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    Bush knows good and well that the next Bush to run is R-money. Same spoiled rich brat riding daddy's coattails as GWB, minus the compassion. R-money is the neocons' preferred candidate, which means R-money is the preferred candidate for the elitist Bush neocon family.

    January 26, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. passionate less willard jeffs Romney

    Obama 2012

    January 26, 2012 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  14. RINO Bil

    I dunno Jeb, this circular firing squad seems to be the most productive thing these yahoos have done for the American public in a long time. It's good wholesome fun and very entertaining.

    January 26, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  15. 2buttercups

    Mr. Bush would do well to retire quietly. I think we've had enough of the Bush family.

    January 26, 2012 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  16. Mike Botwin

    I wish the Bush Boys had tried a circular firing squad before purchasing their political offices. America would be so much better off today if they had.

    January 26, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  17. Spookys mom

    I agree with TR. I wish that Jeb had come first. Smartest grape in that 'bunch' and the ONLY civil mind in the GOP has no chance of having a chance. Pity for us all.

    January 26, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  18. Jimh77

    Mr. Bush was the best FL ever had.

    January 26, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. Mackavelli

    I think George H.W. Bush is a very noble and decent man. He ran a somewhat clean campaign, in terms of what we say on the campaign trails today, and he meant well for his country while he was a sitting president. He didn't choose his staffers very well, although. When it comes to Jr., I have to say otherwise. His presidency was maured by acussations of cheating and lying to the American people as well as the rest of the world. It was as though he thought being president was an entitlement and the White House a place for him to play with and entertain his friends.

    January 26, 2012 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  20. U.S. Citizen

    With the Repub corporate establishment being in favor of Bush and scared of Gingrich (for whatever reason) and the base not liking Romney because he's a Mormon, not thinking he's conservative enough and not trusting him because of his flip-flopping, does that leave open a dark horse and/or brokered convention for another candidate?

    Et tu, Jeb?

    January 26, 2012 07:22 pm at 7:22 pm |
  21. judith

    Jebby must be very bitter that his dimwitted older brother ruined his political future forever. He's right, of course, to warn about his party marginalizing itself, but "what values?" I see no moral value in funneling all the nation's wealth into the very few at the top.

    January 26, 2012 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  22. ronpaulfreedom1

    After Terry Schiavo's Murder in Florida all Jeb showed,Was he couldn't even Govern Florida or keep a unruley Judge from the most unjust possiblity regaurding human Life..His Brotther as President could have stopped it with a executive order but did nothing..No we will be a much greater Nation with out The Bushes or Clintons we are tired of these two family's..Lets give the Pauls a chance to get rid of the money changers in Washinton and Bring Our Troops home .They don't believe what they are doing..thats why they support Ron Paul!

    January 26, 2012 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  23. Noodle Nose Johnson

    "I don't think a party can aspire to be the majority party if it's the old white guy party."

    The GOP isn't the "old white guy party". It's the "RICH old white guy party".

    January 26, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  24. conoclast

    Oh god I thought I'd managed to forget - there's ANOTHER Bush!

    January 26, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  25. Voice of Reason

    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 |

    You mean like the ones sponsored by the Tea Party and Fox News? Puh-leese! The candidates were falling over each other for the chance to get free face-time in these debates. For the chance to deliver their carefully-prepared sound-bite one-liners for free.

    Pinning it on the "Lame-stream Media" (a juvenile term if i ever heard one) is as disingenuous as it is flawed.

    January 26, 2012 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
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