Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has issued a polite but firm warning to 2012 GOP Presidential hopefuls that they risk turning off middle of the road voters if they are knee-jerk in opposition to Obama and demonize him — once again showing why Jeb Bush had success in winning swing voters and widespread appeal when he ran for office in Florida.
The question is whether his warning will have any impact whatsoever in a Republican Party that today seems most interested in being on the same wavelength as the Tea Party movement and conservative talk show hosts. But Bush’s comments keep hope alive for those who hope to see the Republicans one day offer a less strident and more thoughtful alternative to a Democrat in Presidential campaigns:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush warned the Republican presidential hopefuls against ideological intransigence and knee-jerk opposition to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying they risk turning off middle-of-the-road voters.
Asked by Fox News host Neil Cavuto if some Republicans go too far in their criticism of Obama, Bush said flatly, “I do. I think when you start ascribing bad motives to the guy, that’s wrong. It turns off people who want solutions.
“It’s fine to criticize him, that’s politics,” said Bush, the younger brother of former President George W. Bush, who again reiterated that he won’t run for president himself. “But just to stop there isn’t enough. You have to win with ideas, you have to win with policies. … He’s made a situation that was bad worse. He’s deserving of criticism for that. He’s not deserving of criticism for the common cold on up.”
“If you’re a conservative, you have to persuade. You can’t just be against the president,” he added.
And here’s a little secret: persuading means not always saying things and saying things in a way that the party’s base wants to hear but saying things based on the substantive arguments that could actually change minds.
Bush also showed that he is most assuredly in the same league as many former members of both Bush Presidential administrations and some former members of the Reagan administration as well:
Breaking with the GOP field, Bush said he’d be willing to accept new revenues as part of a deficit-reduction package.
“I think the problems are so severe in this country that leadership is required to find common ground and solutions,” he said.
But he pushed back against billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s suggestion that taxes be raised on the rich.
“The problem with Warren Buffett’s attitude is he’s talking about people who are already rich, and his policies I think may create a lid on people who are aspiring to be rich,” Bush said. “There are 10 other aspiring Warren Buffetts that will find it harder to become rich.”
And Bush played down widespread reports of tensions between Perry and the Bush clan, though he acknowledged that Bush political architect Karl Rove harbors some of his own resentment.
Bush also pooh-poohed analyses, reporting and speculation indicating tensions between his family and the campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Read THIS COLUMN for a bit more on Perry.
The Bottom Line: Bush’s comments are not on the same wavelength in some ways with the current prevailing GOP narrative or political style.
But it could be that he and several others (Jon Huntsman, for instance) are positioning themselves to be there to pick up the pieces after the GOP alienates swing voters by being too fixated on pleasing Rush Limbaugh and goes down to defeat in 2012 — snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
His point is an important one: politicians an lambaste Barack Obama all they want but it has to be on substance and not just knee jerk opposition.
Because to many swing voters he or she who is “knee jerk” epitomizes the second word in that phrase.
Which doesn’t win votes.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.