January 26th, 2012
04:39 PM ET
11 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. master flash

    all of the candidates are unelectable.. one would think they could field better candidates. bottom of the barrel. this country needs solutions not old school players of the system that got us where we are today.

    January 27, 2012 02:36 am at 2:36 am |
  2. Susan Booth

    Jeb Bush warns candidates, "Sorry guys, I'm not there to fix the election like i did for my brother is 2000". I don't respect this thug or his family.

    January 27, 2012 02:43 am at 2:43 am |
  3. TamarS

    Jeb may indeed be the one Bush left with integrity. Unfortunately, his father (GH) and his brother (GW) both exhibited cowardly endings i(and personal arrogance) nstead of courageous ones in those wars that they had the power to influence. Jeb has no credibilty now once you include the "hanigng chad" fiasco of the lorida 2000 election. It is the epitomy of a fixed election. GW was not elected by the people of the US. He was elected by a default of courage on behalf of many elected officals who could have helped to clear the situation honestly. Today, Iowa is the new Florida.

    January 27, 2012 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  4. proud51

    Job's warning to the hatepublican candidates..Be in your best behaviour down there and hide your fakeness are as I'm no longer in control in Florida and I won't be able to steal the elections again like I did with my brother.

    January 27, 2012 04:33 am at 4:33 am |
  5. Heidi

    Another Bush will never be given an opportunity to ruin this country again

    January 27, 2012 04:57 am at 4:57 am |
  6. Linda

    Have the Bushes not done enough damage to this country?

    January 27, 2012 05:11 am at 5:11 am |
  7. clarke

    I sure hope they listen to him. I am not a fan, but he had some good advice for the GOP.

    January 27, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
  8. Larry

    Jeb recommends keeping the closet door shut. Don't show the people your true colors until after elected. What a circus our politicians have made of themselves. The have no shame.

    January 27, 2012 06:58 am at 6:58 am |
  9. Jorge

    From his dealings with Latino voters, Mr. Bush has got it right on with regards to how coolly we regard the current GOP POTUS candidates, but he fails when he insinuates that we may yet change our minds on the matter, because he does not know to what extent we regard their mendacity, sycophancy towards the powerful and dysfunctional, backstabbing and hedonistic double-standards as the most unmanly behavior.

    January 27, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  10. As Far As Siam

    George W. Bush.
    eight of the worse years in American history.
    Do not let another one anywhere near the white house.

    January 27, 2012 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  11. jnpa

    It amazes me how someone in the GOP has to tell the candidates how to act. They are like little kids and the father (Jeb) is reprimanding them for their actions. What a strange group they are!

    January 27, 2012 07:33 am at 7:33 am |
  12. XX

    Too late Bush, the GOP circular firing squad has already done permanent damage.

    January 27, 2012 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  13. OnlyRonPaul

    I will NEVER vote for another Bush, EVER.

    January 27, 2012 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  14. Marc in Florida

    There's an expert for you. What the country needs is another Bush! God help us.

    January 27, 2012 08:05 am at 8:05 am |
  15. Jean from Minnesota

    The LAST thing our country needs Jeb Bush, is another Bush running out country. Your family has been a horrible curse upon our nation! We have awful GOP candidates for President too! You say Romney has to show more heart, how can he do that when that is not who he is. Would a man with heart put his dog who is in a kennel on top of his car and drive with him like that for miles? And Santorum, what kind of NUT would take his dead baby home and play with it with his other children. I have lost two babies, I held mine in my lap after they passed away, but to take them home and play with them.............and he wants to take our rights to contraceptives away? No way! Then there is Newt, the SWINGER........They are ALL liars, rich men that have the top 1% best interests at heart, and have their own agenda in mind for our country, like ol' Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a paid employee of the Koch Brothers. I hope my fellow Americans use their heads when it comes time to vote, listen to ALL these candidates have to say, and look at all they have done in the past, because honey, they want to run our futures. And it won't be good if one of them are elected.

    January 27, 2012 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  16. Demo Joseph

    Frankly I would never vote for the GOP unless my grandson flips. But if I had to vote for a GOP – Jeb would be the one. At least he knows what it feels like when someone calls someone you love a nasty name. I know he is smarter then the other brother.

    January 27, 2012 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  17. babs

    Jeb Bush was Florida's governor during economic boom times. He had an easy job, but thinks he was a miracle worker, much as Dubya started life on third base and thought he hit a triple. It is a Bush family trait to inflate their resumes.

    January 27, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  18. WDRussell

    After 22 failed ballots at the GOP convention, they will settle on a compromise ticket of Pat Robertson/Phyllis Schafaly.

    January 27, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  19. vjc from Minnesota

    ALL THUMBS DOWN when it comes to the BUSH FAMILY...ALL THUMBS UP to President OBAMA !!!!!!!!!!! ...and as for 2016 I have a DEMOCRAT in mind to take over when OBAMA leaves in 2016.

    January 27, 2012 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  20. unhanon

    "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."

    This is perhaps the smartest thing I have heard during the Republican primary season. Too bad it wasn't said by any of the candidates!

    January 27, 2012 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  21. Furious Styles

    Sorry Jeb, after ruining the education system in Florida and giving insurance companies the green light to run rough shot over homeowners, nobody should be wasting airtime on you. Nobody

    January 27, 2012 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  22. Edward

    Why haven't any of the republican candidates hit Romney on his past support of TARP? It's like they aren't even trying. I don't think Obama will be so kind. How will Romney criticize Obama on TARP, the auto bailout, the stimulus when he has been FOR all of these things in the past. Obama is going to tear him to shreds in the debates and make him look solo flaky and unreliable and people do not want someone that can't make up their mind as president. 

    January 27, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
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