By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Battered by weeks of negative headlines, Republican Jeb Bush launches a campaign reboot on Monday with a “Jeb Can Fix It” tour and release of an e-book that reveals a more personal side to a 2016 candidate who has struggled on the public stage.
Bush’s dismal performance at a debate of Republican presidential candidates last week in Colorado was an added burden to a candidate once considered the favorite for the nomination and now suffering drooping poll numbers and fund-raising.
In Tampa on Monday, Bush hopes to begin a political comeback. He will give a speech presenting himself as a problem-solving politician who carried out conservative reforms as Florida’s governor from 1999 to 2007.
A campaign aide said the speech will be a “rejection of the ‘competing pessimisms’ created in the (President Barack) Obama era in favor of leadership that solves problems.”
He will take the message to South Carolina and then on a three-day bus tour of New Hampshire.
The tour coincides with the release of a 730-page e-book, entitled “Reply All.” It is a compilation of many of the email exchanges he had with Floridians during his time as governor.
The emails cover everything from his drive for tax cuts and education reform in Florida to dealing with hurricanes.
Beyond the work issues, there was plenty of the comical, such as when a 9-year-old girl wrote to tell him she did not like her piano lessons because “my teacher smells of dead alligators.” She wanted to know if Jeb and brother George had taken piano while growing up.
“Yes, I had piano lessons,” Bush emailed her. “It was tough and I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I wasn’t that good at it. But you know what? It gave me discipline which helped me as an adult.”
Another writer wanted to know how the bilingual Bush became so fluent in Spanish.
“I learned Spanish by marrying a Mexican girl, by living in Venezuela and by taking Spanish courses in school. The first two were the most important,” Bush replied.
Bush makes clear in a 2006 exchange with a reporter his support for comprehensive immigration reform, an issue that has roiled the Republican race this year as billionaire Donald Trump has pledged to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and deport 11 million illegal immigrants.
Bush said a more secure border is needed “but the notion that we would felonize folks that have been here and that are contributing to our progress is just plain wrong.”
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Walsh)
Photo: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank