Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, interviewed at a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, took issue with his party’s immigration platform, saying that tough policies are costing Republicans elections and presidential nominee Mitt Romney can help bridge a “gap” among Hispanic voters if he shares more of his personal story and beliefs.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: I yield the first question to Mark Silva.
QUESTION: Governor, good morning.
JEB BUSH: Good morning.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, considering - considering the damage that has been done in the Hispanic community (OFF-MIKE) primaries (OFF-MIKE) platform, if it’s at all salvageable in this election cycle and (OFF-MIKE) Mitt Romney (OFF-MIKE) specifically do or say (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: I think it can - I think the gap can narrow, and I think it will narrow, as people get to know Mitt Romney. It’s - I’m always - I’m always amazed at how - for normal people, how little they know about our candidates until a night like tonight or the debates. You know, everybody that watches this intently assumes everybody else is, and it may come as a shock to - to people whose livelihood is based on the political process, they don’t.
So I think the gap will narrow in a way that - that’s a positive way. I think the tone will improve as the focus is on the presidential election, not on the platform, not on other candidates. The interesting thing is that the most vociferous anti-immigrant kind of candidates lose. Probably have noticed, but they lose in primaries, they lose in general elections.
And I’m all about winning. I think Republicans need to change our GOP moniker to a GSP, you know, Grand Solutions Party. Be about big things, be about solutions, that’s what swing voters care about. They’re not as inclined to follow kind of a doctrinaire view on things where we’re on the left and right just kind of talking beyond each other. And so I think Governor Romney has a chance to narrow that gap tonight and in the debates do the same.
QUESTION: But does he have to say something specific?
BUSH: I don’t - I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I - look, immigration is the issue that people focus on. And I heard a term that I hadn’t heard before, which kind of makes sense to me. It’s immigration - if you ask Hispanic voters, Pew does a lot of research on this. I follow them, because they’re the only ones that do. And immigration is down the list about the same place it is for everybody else, maybe a little bit higher, but significantly lower than the economy, jobs, education, deficit, debt, health care. Those are the issues that American voters say are the most important ones.
And - but it’s a gateway issue, because it’s an issue that allows you - if you have - show some sensitivity, it allows you to be heard. And I think that’s kind of the right - right way to look at it, that it’s - it’s an issue that has relevance.
And I think it’s fair game, by the way, to point out the president has - the focus is on our side, our problem, you know, with this, but the president had two years where he promised in an election. He won a pretty good majority four years ago with Hispanic voters. He promised comprehensive immigration reform his first year. He didn’t submit a law - bill to Congress. It’s always been a second or third priority.
And I’ve concluded it isn’t because it’s not important. It’s that it’s important politically. It’s better to have this as a club, a wedge issue politically, to drive every time you can than to solve the problem. And that cynical approach isn’t the one that’s going to - Hispanic voters aren’t going to embrace that either. That’s incredibly disrespectful. May get low turnout because of it.
QUESTION: Governor -
HUNT: Dan Balz?
QUESTION: - when you - when you talk about the Grand Solutions Party, Paul Ryan’s speech last night has gotten some pretty good reviews, but there’s one seemingly hole in it, and that is the lack of specifics about the kind of program that he and Governor Romney are talking about. He - he gave a broad-brush description of it, but not much in terms of how they would actually do that and what it would entail for people. How much does Governor Romney owe people tonight to fill that in, that -
BUSH: On economic policy?
BUSH: I think it’s -
QUESTION: Economic and - and the fiscal and budgetary.
BUSH: I don’t know. I don’t know how much detail on the fiscal - the fiscal stuff is so hard to describe in a speech that - you know, in this kind of setting, because it’s - it’s really wonky, you know? It’s harder. I think the economic policy, he will lay out more specificity. And over time, it will become an important part of the campaign.
Right now, up until now, the traditional approach has been the dominant one, where both sides are pointing out what they perceive to be the weakness of the other side, rather than laying out an alternative. This is the time to begin to change that, and I think he will.
The fiscal policy stuff, you know, I don’t think the speech will be laden with CBO projections and stuff like that -
BUSH: You get Paul Ryan in a room, one-on-one, though, and you’ll just get a lot of that stuff. He comes at you like a freight train with all this stuff, and it’s important. I mean, it’s - it does say you’re - you know, you’re willing to take a stand and persuade - defend people - you know, defend your views and persuade people it’s the right way.
QUESTION: But where do you do that, if you can’t do it at - I mean, I take your point that it is a wonky piece of it, and yet it’s a critical part of a different kind of agenda that Romney and Ryan are trying to convince people they’re serious about.
BUSH: Yeah, I may be wrong. He may do it. I just don’t know how you do it in a 45-minute speech that’s - you’ve got all this, you know, massive energy in front of you. And it’s like - any time someone starts talking about -
QUESTION: You think that -
BUSH: - cutting the growth in the, you know, CBO baseline, it’s not - it’s not that exciting for people who are really mobilized to go climb the hill with you. Does that make sense?
HUNT: Governor, let me -
HUNT: May we get you breakfast? We forgot to ask.
BUSH: No, I’m - I’m tempted, but - right there, that cupcake looks pretty good, whatever that thing is, but I’m good.
HUNT: OK. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Governor (OFF-MIKE) some people that say, as (OFF-MIKE) saying, that (OFF-MIKE) use the opportunity (OFF-MIKE) flesh out really what he wants to do on tax reform and budget (OFF-MIKE) other people say, well, he really needs to introduce himself and humanize himself, warm up, you know, to voters. And then you hear other people say that he’s got to say something that reassures the social conservatives in your party and the (OFF-MIKE) folks. So there’s a lot of pressure on him to do a lot of things with this speech.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Poor guy.
QUESTION: What do you think he needs - what - what would be your advice about what he should do with this speech?
BUSH: My advice is not to take advice, for starters, because there’s a lot of it. I would - I would strive - two things I think that he’ll do. One is to speak more from his heart, to - to show his heart. And that’s been hard for a guy who’s been brought up, trained, lived his life in a way of great discipline and reserve. Just - you know, you can’t undo 63 years of how you’ve lived.
And it’s - by the way, it’s not a bad thing to be reserved and humble and charitable and disciplined and hard-working. It’s being strangely viewed kind of as a defect in politics today, because we all have to be more Clintonesque, I guess, and show our frailties in ways that people can relate to, because we’re all imperfect under God’s watchful eye.
I don’t know. I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist about this, but I do think it’s interesting that a guy who has been incredibly successful in his life, in his marriage, in his family, in his business, in his commitment to his community is viewed as kind of flawed, whereas others, because they can express themselves in a more, you know, human way or whatever, even though they may have imperfections that are, you know, quite enormous get credit. It’s kind of the world we live in. That’s not going to change by tonight, so he’s going to have to find a - you know, Romneyesque way of showing who he is.
And then I - to me, this is a - this is a big election. This is one of those - this could be a transformational election. It’s a transformational time, for sure, so one would hope that the election looks more like 1980, where it’s about big things, and this is the - this is where the big things need to be talked about. And the biggest big thing is, how do we restore a sense of confidence and optimism? Is it possible for our country to grow over a sustained period of time at a rate that looks more like our past, rather than our present?
The answer to that is yes, and there’s a set of policies that would have to be implemented for that to occur. And that’s what - you know, I’m not giving him advice, but I think that’s what he’ll talk about. I think that’s - that’s the natural next step for the Romney message.
QUESTION: One of the five points that he talks about is training and education. And Secretary Rice spoke about it last night.
BUSH: Yeah, I was happy about that.
QUESTION: Yeah. What would you like to see from the Republican Party, rather than merely a negative - rather than merely reducing the influence of the federal government, what - as a president, since traditionally it has been a 10th Amendment issue, what should the Republican Party be saying?
BUSH: Well, I have a speech tonight about this, so I’ve been thinking about it. I think - if you look at the - the Romney education plan, there are two elements of it that - that are important. One I’m not going to speak about, which is reforming higher education. We have this - it may be - it may be counterintuitive for people, but once it’s explained, when I try to explain it, if I’m articulate enough, people nod their heads and at least acknowledge the point, which is we’ve allowed the federal student loan programs, which now have grown to over $1 trillion, to actually protect higher education from reforming itself.
The governance model of higher education is completely feudal. It’s not - not even industrial or - I mean, we’ve got to go - go back to the, like, 16th century to find an organizational model like the ones in universities, insular. Departments have more power than presidents above them. And it’s all funded and financed by a student loan program that has grown exponentially.
And so what we’ve done is, we’ve raised tuition, it’s been financed by - by and large, by the federal government. Local government, state governments, as well, but mostly federal. And then we just put this load on unemployed graduates and those that don’t graduate. Those are the ones that Paul Ryan talked about that are in their pajamas in their parents’ guest room looking at the faded Obama posters.
So we’re financing this off the backs of people that aren’t getting a bang for their buck. And this is a place I know that Governor Romney believes there has to be change. And there the federal government can play a useful role of providing education opportunities, but not at the expense of an unreformed higher education system.
Just to put a little exclamation point on this, when I was governor, it always infuriated me that, you know, governors had all these ideas and you go to the presidents of the universities, they go, yeah, yeah, we’re with you, and then like a nanosecond, they - OK, now that that’s out of the way - they never change. They never - it was very difficult to get them to do anything.
And what frustrated me was we measure the percentage of full-time students graduating with a four-year degree in six years. What’s going on with that? I mean, why don’t we call it a six-year degree and be honest? Or why don’t we measure it in full-time students graduating with a four-year degree in four years?
Just for the record, 60 percent of U.S. - of full-time students in America - from public universities graduate with a four-year degree in six years. And the number-one degree program in Florida at least is psychology. That’s a failed system. So that’s number one.
Number two is the reforming of K-12, where, you know, the 10th Amendment, just our federal system, does - does drive education policy, as it should. But the president can be a partner. Here - this is a place where, of all the policy areas, I think President Obama deserves some recognition for having a different approach than at least what I expected.
He appointed a good education secretary, who’s worked across the aisle politically, and I think that could be expanded with stronger partnerships, more waivers that allow for meaningful reform. It’s ripe for - thanks to the president’s - actually, health care is the reason why there’s more education reform in the country today than any other single fact.
It’s the - this visceral reaction to the overreach in Obamacare that created the greatest wave election in American history since 1936. So Senator Schmidlap (ph), you know, that was like the senator - Ed Committee chairman in the Minnesota House got wiped out. She’s no longer there. And the whole bench of the Democratic Party was just obliterated by this tsunami. And in their place are these very passionate reform-minded legislators.
So there’s - there’s a climate of real interest in reform, and you see it across the country. And Governor Romney, as president, could be a partner in that. But I don’t think you’re going to hear him advocate for a more robust federal role. And I don’t think it’s necessary.
The one thing that he’s done is incredibly provocative - and I’m surprised - maybe it’ll get more attention now that I remind you of it - is the voucherization, if you will, allowing parents to take Title I money and use it to go to private options. So these would be students that are in schools that qualify for Title I money. You could take that money, the per-student funding that goes with it, and you could - you could use it to go to another school.
And under IDEA, the federal government provides support for exceptional education students in the states. The same thing applies there. That is transformative. That will change the old order of things pretty quick. And it will provide support for reform-minded governors that believe that that’s the appropriate thing to do.
It’s also quite provocative. Everybody claims that Romney’s like a - you know, very cautious and stuff. This was a light up the scoreboard idea, and I’m really kind of pleased he embraced it.
QUESTION: Can I take you back to higher ed for a second?
BUSH: Back to what?
QUESTION: To higher education.
QUESTION: Yeah, you said - and government’s putting $1 trillion - or $1 trillion in student loans (OFF-MIKE) obviously a lot of research (OFF-MIKE) universities. What should the role of the federal government be in transforming higher education (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: Well, I think - I think the student - first of all, the research dollars I would separate and say that is a legitimate - I mean, you might want to look at the outcome measures, you know, so that you’re getting a good return and we’re not studying the mating habits of the - you know, some weird species or something like that. I mean, there’s a lot of weird research that goes on, but there’s a lot of really powerful, important research that improves the human condition, improves the economy, so to me that’s a very useful role for government. And I don’t want to imply that that’s a failure at all. I think it’s been historically a great success.
The reform, you know, rather than just blindly provide money, maybe you create some criteria - and this is - my view is not - I don’t know what Governor Romney’s views are - where you don’t - your university is not qualified to receive student loans, the benefit of student loans, if they don’t have performance criteria attached to it, that your graduation rate goes up.
So try to go get a course for your kid on a Friday. Go try it just for fun, see what happens. You know, I - I’m biased on this, because I graduated in two years. And I took 18 hours every - you know, every semester, and I went from 8:00 to 12:00, and then I worked. And that’s my two years of college, and it was not that hard. To be honest with you, assume you take a -you study an hour, you go to school an hour, that’s 36 hours. I’ve never worked 36 hours in a week. I’ve never come close to that. It’s always been 60 or something. I mean, everybody works more than 36 hours.
So when you’re 21 years old, a full-time student, full of energy, my god, I mean, that’s - that’s a no-brainer. But you can’t do it today. You’re not - I mean, you can’t get the courses you need to graduate in four years. But we call it a four-year degree, because that’s what we’ve been doing, and no one’s challenged it.
So in - require productivity gains. Require professors to teach. Require completion rates. Require that there’s counseling for students so they don’t change their degrees four times. Require the process to work more productively. And, I mean, I guarantee you, the private universities don’t have this problem, because they got tuition, you know, costs out of the yin-yang. They - parents aren’t going to let that happen.
When you subsidize it with state support and then this - this student loan support, without any reform, you get what we have, which is just unproductive.
QUESTION: Governor, would you consider (OFF-MIKE) at our country right now, we don’t have enough math, science, and engineering students. What about offering - offering (OFF-MIKE) programs for some of the hard sciences in order to encourage more science (OFF-MIKE) psychology (OFF-MIKE).
BUSH: We - we looked at - we looked at this and got massive resistance from the universities. No surprise there, again. Differentiate - differential tuition for the same purpose.
So if you got a degree that - the community - you know, the state had shortages of teachers, nurses, engineers, say, use that as an example, which is true, by the way, consistently true, particularly in growing states, make - make the securing of those degrees more affordable.
And if you don’t need, you know, psychology majors that end up working out of field, normally, or going to graduate school - it’s the easiest route, I think. That’s my theory, at least. It’s probably the easiest route to go get another degree maybe that has higher purpose. Maybe you price that differently.
The argument against that is, that goes against our business model. And my argument against them was, you don’t have a business model. Your model is, put the - you know, build the moat deeper, build the walls higher, don’t let anybody come in and try to influence how you operate. Use academic freedom as this, you know, prophylactic over your - over your operations, and hope they go away.
QUESTION: Governor, let me ask you a question (OFF-MIKE) Governor Romney. You heard last night both Mike Huckabee and Paul Ryan made reference to, you know, the (OFF-MIKE) the fact that Governor Romney is (OFF-MIKE) doesn’t matter. We do know that, if elected, Governor Romney would be the first Mormon elected president.
QUESTION: What should he say about faith? And how should that issue play out in the election?
BUSH: I don’t think it is - in the general election, I don’t think it’ll be a - I don’t think it’ll be an issue. And I can’t imagine how you - it’d be hard for me to imagine how the Obama campaign or its affiliates would somehow try to demonize Governor Romney for his faith.
But this is an opportunity to say how his faith informs his thinking and his actions. That’s - that’s kind of to the point of, how do you connect with people? You’ve got to give a little bit of sense of - you know, what organizes your life? What are the things when you wake up that you - that guide you and allows you to make decisions? And how does that - how does that architecture around yourself give people a sense that you’re going to be thinking about them?
So I don’t know enough about the Mormon church as it relates to its teachings of compassion or, you know, dealing with the - those that through no help - no fault of their own truly need the help of their fellow man. Most - most faiths have some important part of their faith based on that.
But his own life has been guided by it. And the fact that he gives more than - that he tithes - you know, he gives more than 10 percent of his income, which is a pretty sizable sum, we now know, is pretty remarkable. And there’s something there that drives who he is. And the fact that he was the leader of his church in Boston or in the greater Boston area, I know Tony Burns is a friend of mine. Mark, you may remember him from Miami. He was the CEO of Ryder. He’s a Mormon, and he was the head of the - I’ll call it a parish, because I’m Catholic. I don’t know what they call it.
But - and he would - when hurricanes came or there was any kind of problem in the Mormon faith community in Miami, he would stop being CEO of Ryder or community leader or anything. He was all-in. And he organized the response of his fellow parishioners to help - to help their fellow Mormons.
So that’s a powerful thing. And he’s never talked about this. It’s interesting. I think it’s something to be proud of, and I think it’s something to share.
QUESTION: On the same kind of token, when - all week, when you talk to delegates, I mean, it seems that you’re - I’m hearing more that people are less about being excited about Mitt Romney, but really excited about not liking Obama. You know? And so how does Mitt Romney become (OFF-MIKE) candidate, not a default candidate? Or, you know, that people will rally around him (OFF-MIKE) do something, and not undo something.
BUSH: Yeah, well, that’s - that’s - the speech can begin that. I think - I mean, you’ve hit on a point that is important politically, which is that, if you start - starting apparently now, the ABC-Washington Post poll will start doing likely voters, once - after the conventions.
QUESTION: Yeah (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: You know, it’s expensive.
QUESTION: Director of polling is at the end of the table here (OFF-MIKE)
QUESTION: Well, we call it the Washington Post-ABC News poll.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Sorry. My bad.
HUNT: Yeah, but you also call this the Washington Post-Bloomberg breakfast, you know.
QUESTION: No, we just call this the Washington Post breakfast.
BUSH: Fifteen-yard penalty, loss of down.
The - if you start screening for likely voters, this intensity factor already plays out. Generally, the head-to-head match-up, Romney does better among likely voters, because there is intensity and it is, I think, more oriented towards organizing the energies around defeating the president. I’m all for that. I don’t - but I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. I think you can actually be attached in a positive way to your candidate, but you’re not going to change the fact that there are a lot of people in this country that are deeply disturbed by the president’s actions to date and where one would anticipate him taking us.
You know, here’s my thinking on it, because hope springs eternal, right? I would love for the - some strange occurrence to occur - you know, something to happen, the moon and the stars align the right way or the barometric pressure goes way down, whatever it is, to have somehow one of those a-ha moments where the president of the United States and Paul Ryan, for example, or the president of the United States, Boehner and McConnell and Reid, or -whatever the combination is, found enough common ground that they said I’m willing to jump off the cliff with you together to solve these big structural problems.
I’m convinced it’s not going to happen with Barack Obama as president, because he’s had two chances to do it, one, a positive - in a positive environment. He won the election for that reason. He didn’t win the election saying I’m a doctrinaire, hard-core ideologue, vote for me. He won the election because he said that we can do things differently and we can find common ground. The old way’s bad, and we need to find a new way of doing things, and he - he violated his own mandate by moving in a completely different direction, notwithstanding he’s - you know, just - this is a refrain I’ve been saying ad nauseam down here in Tampa - he was dealt a tough hand. Got that.
But he could have solved these problems in a bipartisan way, and there was never an effort - and then the reaction - yes, all right, I know - the reaction on the other side creates this kind of armed camp (ph). But presidents have a responsibility to lead, and he didn’t do it.
Then, in 2010, I mean, the shellacking was an understatement. His term was an understatement. There was a 700 gain - seat gain in the state legislatures around the country. You’ve got to go back to 1936 to get kind of a proportional butt-kick like that.
And so in 1995, what did President Clinton do? He said, OK, listening, got it. Man, that hurt. So I’m going to pivot and try to use my position of leadership to try to find enough common ground to govern. And it was effective from a policy point of view, and it was certainly effective politically. 1996, he won going away.
The president didn’t do that. 2011, he doubled-down again. So to think that he would, in 2013, all of a sudden have an epiphany on this, I think is misguided. So -
QUESTION: But on that point, when you - when you acknowledge that there was resistance on the Republican side, is there - can you point to anything that would suggest that if the president had done the kind of outreach you’re talking about or that many Republicans say they wish he would have done, that Republicans actually would have reciprocated on that? Because there’s a - there’s a - there’s a view in the White House that ultimately they had to make a choice, and that choice was we can either get things done or we can try this other path without any guarantee of success, because of the resistance that - that -
BUSH: You know, they’re - they’re mixing up the history here. I think that’s a legitimate thing to say in 2011, but not in 2009. He had - you know, you had a president that won a historic election. And hope and change was in the air. I mean, you know, love was in the air. This was a guy that looked difficult to - you know, it was just an amazing election, soaring eloquence in his remarks. He was dealt difficult - difficult economic circumstances, and rather than bringing in the loyal opposition and saying, what - you know, what can we do? That’s not what happened.
This was - they outsourced the stimulus package to pin-up liberals, basically, frustrated, that finally got their chance to be in power, and every - you know, every sweet thing was put into this thing, put a bow on it, and that’s stimulus. And it was completely ineffective, because it wasn’t strategic in its efforts.
And then - and then rather than saying, how do we create a climate of sustained economic growth, what are the things that we could do where there’s enough common ground to act on it? He passed - he goes - he outsources again the health care deal to Nancy Pelosi’s office. And for a year and a few months, as you guys know, worked on a health care bill that had no - I mean, it’s - it’s not going to solve the problems. It’s a massive overreach of government. It didn’t create any kind of possibility of common ground.
So naturally, the Republicans are going to be reticent of supporting a president in the climate that we had prior to Obama’s arrival and now. They’re naturally going to be reticent about doing that. But the president’s going to lead.
QUESTION: But what about - I mean, on the health care example, receiving a lot of criticism from the left, he spent a lot of time giving the Finance Committee an opportunity to put together a bipartisan package and could not get any Republicans, with the exception of Olympia Snowe, to get it out of committee, to go along with that.
And they spent months and months and months trying to do that, and he - you know, he kept giving them later deadlines, and then finally they pulled the plug and said we’ve just got to move on, because there was - they couldn’t get the Republican agreement, and in part because people like Mitch McConnell and others were pushing hard in the other direction. So -
BUSH: All I know is this. I just finished reading the Caro book on Johnson. And I’m reading this, and I’m thinking, you know, our country’s - I can’t say what I think. Our country - let me see if I can say this - our country’s got big-time troubles.
HUNT: You think Lyndon would have handled it differently?
BUSH: I know Lyndon would have handled it differently. I mean, he would have grabbed people by the shoulders, ears, head, he would have convinced John Boehner that it was his patriotic duty to step up, like he did with Dirksen, party of Lincoln, on the civil rights bill. He would have - he would have charmed whoever was the guy that needed to be charmed or the gal to get the budget done.
I mean, just - in six weeks’ time, 25 percent across-the-board tax cut, so that there could be a - jump-starting the economy, to increase revenues for government, to begin to build the Great Society programs. Imagine if a liberal Democrat today would do that. You don’t think you could find common ground? I mean, people would go nuts. It would change the game. I mean, you know, 25 percent - a girl could dream, but maybe -
BUSH: - maybe a little less than that.
QUESTION: Good luck on that.
BUSH: You know, and a dollar-for-dollar reduction year to year in the budget, which was the means by which he placated Senator Byrd in - on the - you know, this cardinal or whatever they call them - whatever they called them back then. Now they call them cardinals, which is absurd.
And then the greatest civil rights legislation done in a six-week period, it - it was all-in leadership that made that happen. This president doesn’t even call John Boehner. They’ve talked maybe twice, right, in the last, like, millennium. And how do you know unless you try? I mean, I don’t there was a downside - and even today, there’s no downside in trying to find common ground.
QUESTION: In the beginning, there were - there were attempts. He invited him to the White House. He made phone calls, that sort of thing. But all that’s past. You know this state better than anybody.
HUNT: Except for Mark Silva.
QUESTION: Except for Mark Silva.
BUSH: Well, he’s been gone a long time.
QUESTION: OK. And except for Mike Bender.
BUSH: Yeah, that’s true.
QUESTION: Tell - can you tell us, like, where - what do you see the dynamics in Florida? How close might the race be?
BUSH: I mean, always very close. The demographics of the state - it’s interesting. The demographics of the state are probably trending Democrat, but the voting profile of the state is - has improved at least for this year, the long-term demographic trends. That may change, because it’s - a lot relates to migratory patterns, who comes down when.
But the voter registration numbers have actually improved by 300,000, 400,000, I think, on a net basis for Republicans. So, you know, it’ll be a close election for sure. The economy is improving. You know, job creation is up. But you look at right track-wrong track numbers, they’re still very - people are equally pessimistic here as they are in other parts of the country, or most of them. So it’s a -
QUESTION: How does Medicare play?
BUSH: Medicare, up until now at least - now, some of these things get - maybe it’ll be the September Washington Post-ABC poll that - that is the one that shows a variation. But right now, Romney’s numbers with elder voters, which vote disproportionately more, at least in Florida, than other age groups, is double-digit leads and hasn’t been impacted by the last three weeks.
So, you know, there’s a - you look at the primary, and, you know, Mitt did really well in the primary, but he won a majority of the 65-plus voters. And I have a theory about this. I’m not sure it’s necessarily true. But it’s - you know, it’s - policy, obviously, and people’s perception there matter, but I think there’s a cultural phenomena that helps Governor Romney among 65-plus voters. So all of the denigration of his - you know, he’s not a hip guy, and the fawning over the president for being hip -
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) music?
BUSH: That’s an example of it. Or when he - I remember one of the primaries he sang Davy Crockett, and the - you know, the cultural elites just ridiculed him to no end. How dare - you know, what a fool. Every one of those 65-year-old folks have kids that had the little Davy Crockett hat with the tail on it, and I think there’s a little bit more kind of connectivity with older voters because Mitt - you know, he is what he is, and he’s kind of culturally more compatible with people that are from - from a different way.
And where - you know, so if the president sings - sings - riffs off of an Al Green song, which, by the way, is one of the finest singers that God has brought to this world, I was impressed, but I don’t think my mom would really care, you know what I’m saying? And moms matter in this state a whole lot. So there’s a cultural tie there that could be a secret weapon.
QUESTION: Governor (OFF-MIKE)
HUNT: Let me - let me just follow up, if I could, on Mark’s first question about immigration. You noted that the Democrats (OFF-MIKE) use it as a club. That’s been their strategy. Doesn’t both the tenor of the primary campaign and the platform, with its endorsement of the Arizona-type laws, isn’t that going to give him a very effective club? And what - and what should -
BUSH: It could.
HUNT: - what should Romney do? It could.
BUSH: Look, I’m not - I’m not the right guy to ask about this. I got my views. I’ve expressed them. I’m all-in on Romney’s election. I really think it’s important for our country. I just don’t think the path - this kind of Groundhog’s Day approach to policy on both sides is what we need as a country. You know, it just doesn’t make sense to me that we would say we couldn’t solve this problem.
You guys that follow this more than I do know that my brother attempted to do it, and he had the votes. He had - the House voted for it. They had the 60 votes. And both - the Senate leadership on both sides allowed freshmen concerned about their re-elections to pull back.
Well, we wouldn’t be talking about this issue had we had comprehensive immigration reform in 2006. And it’s a shame, because my own personal view is that we now - our fertility rate now in the last three years, because of this dark pessimism that exists outside of where most of you live - it’s really pessimistic. Things are OK in Washington world. But outside, people are just - this is - I yearn for the day where Europeans look down their nose and say that we’re naively optimistic. I yearn for that day. No one could claim that now.
And it’s actually impacting fertility rates. I think I read in one of the papers that we have a lower fertility rate today than France. It’s a sign of this pessimism. And the solution is to not view immigrants as a problem. Control the border. But then get to a different conversation about American greatness can be sustained over the long haul if we allow people to come in, embrace our values, fortify them, and bring vitality and energy and an aspirational notion about what it is to be an American.
It’s who we are. And to ignore this in a world that is incredibly competitive, when no one else has this - this is our - this is who we are. This defines us more than any other country, maybe Australia, maybe Canada, but, I mean, in terms of scale, we’re the only ones who could do this. I just find it - it just troubles me. So don’t get me going.
HUNT: Oh, no, keep going.
BUSH: That’s - I don’t want to get in trouble.
QUESTION: Do you personally support the DREAM Act?
BUSH: Yeah, I do. I don’t support the president of the United States going beyond his executive authority. The notion that you could - the law allows for a case-by-case review. And so here’s a president who’s so cynical politically, who said, ah, now here’s a great deal. Governor Romney is going to speak at LULAC or wherever he spoke, the - forgot - the Council on La Raza -
BUSH: NALEO. I was there, as well. So let’s do this executive order the day before he speaks, and then I’m going to speak the next day, and everybody will applaud me. I mean, that’s - that’s - that’s how policy is made. It’s like, I’m going to win the 24-hour news cycle. This is so cynical. And he - I mean, if you’re - if you - if the law says clearly that you have a case-by-case right to review cases, and you blanket say 800,000 people comply, that is way beyond the purview of executive power.
So I don’t support that. I think to use the power of the presidency effectively, you don’t have to use it for cynical reasons, and you don’t have to use it beyond what your power - what the Constitution allows. But having a - having a solution to the fact that we have all of these young people, many of whom are making great contributions, don’t have a connection to their - to their parents’ former country, yeah, of course I’m for it.
You know, but then again, I’m - you know, I’m not running for anything and I can speak my mind. So -
QUESTION: Thank you.
BUSH: I’ve got to go.
HUNT: Thank you, Governor.
BUSH: Finally make news probably with that.
***END OF TRANSCRIPT***
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