Jeb Bush sounds like a Republican candidate for president. Unfortunately for him, the candidate he sounds like is Mitt Romney.
In summer of 2012, as Romney’s “self-deportation” comments in the GOP primary would send him hurtling towards a disastrous performance with Latinos, the former governor of Florida told Charlie Rose, “You have to deal with this issue. You can’t ignore it, and so either a path to citizenship, which I would support — and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives — or … a path… to residency of some kind.”
This morning, Bush told NBC’s Today show that a path to citizenship should not be a part of comprehensive immigration reform.
“And if we want to create an immigration policy that’s going to work, we can’t continue to make illegal immigration an easier path than legal immigration. There’s a natural friction between our immigrant heritage and the rule of law,” Bush said. “This is the right place to be in that sense.”
This puts him to the right of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), another frontrunner for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination and a part of the so-called Gang of 8 in the Senate that is proposing a path to citizenship once the border is secure. It also puts him to the right of his brother, former president George W. Bush.
Jeb Bush, like his brother, has reached out to Latinos in ways many Republicans have not. His flip on immigration is already reminding some of Mitt Romney running against Obamacare, which was a nationalized version of the former Massachusetts governor’s own health care plan.
Opposing citizenship or “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants would be strong positioning for the GOP primary, but could cost Bush if he made it to the general election.
Bush also triangulated on other big issues of the day.
He called the partial renewal of the Bush tax breaks at the beginning of 2012 “the largest tax increase in history.” But he also said that more revenues could be part of a larger “grand bargain.”
“There may be (room for revenue) if the president is sincere about dealing with our structural problems,” Bush said.
He also said that he “loves” Chris Christie but also basically said that CPAC, the ultra-conservative conference, had good reason not to invite New Jersey’s governor.
Bush would not give an answer about whether he would be a candidate in 2016. But he didn’t rule it out either.
“That’s way off into the future,” he said. “I have a voice. I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican Party can regain its footing, because we’ve lost our way.”
The statement “we’ve lost our way” may contain a subtle hint that the GOP has not won a presidential election without a Bush on the ticket since 1972.