Bush, 61, the son of one former president and the brother of another, has attracted attention as a potential Republican contender because of his pedigree, his views on immigration, and his ties to Florida, a key battleground.
“I go about my business each day trying to avoid having to think about it,” Bush said yesterday at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. “I have a lot of work to do, and I have a fulfilled life.”
Bush urged lawmakers to avoid “harsh political rhetoric” in discussing immigration, saying many undocumented immigrants who enter the U.S. are seeking to provide for their families in an “act of love.”
“I honestly think that that’s a different kind of crime. There should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families,” Bush, who has worked closely with the Hispanic community in Florida and urged other Republicans to reach out, told the audience in an interview with Fox News.
“We need to get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place,” said Bush, who said his decision on whether to enter the 2016 race would hinge on family considerations and whether he could wage a campaign “with a hopeful, optimistic message” that avoids the “vortex of the mud fight.”
Bush’s comments contrast with the views of many congressional Republicans, who have argued that people who have entered the U.S. illegally don’t deserve a chance at gaining citizenship. Hispanics in the 2012 election voted to re-elect Barack Obama by 71 percent to 27 percent over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, according to a national exit poll.
A divided Congress has clashed over how to rewrite immigration laws. The Democratic-led Senate last year passed the most significant immigration measure in a generation. The bill would create a path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S., while directing $46.3 billion toward securing the border with Mexico.
The Republican-controlled House hasn’t acted on that legislation. Many House Republicans say that a path to citizenship is tantamount to amnesty.
Republicans, who lost the past two presidential elections and fell short of winning Senate majorities in 2010 and 2012, should nominate candidates that are “organized around winning the election, not making a point,” Bush said.
“Winning the election should be what we’re about,” he said. “Winning allows the big things to get solved. Winning gets the country back on track.”
Bush said that Republicans have “a lot of really good potential candidates” for the White House including New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whom Bush described as “the real deal” and a “spectacular guy.”
Bush, who was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, spoke at the George Bush library as part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of his father becoming president. Bush’s older brother, George W. Bush, was president from 2001 to 2009.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at email@example.com Elizabeth Wasserman, Craig Gordon