Americans are facing what will likely be the “most negative campaign in modern times” over the next six months, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tells Newsmax, and Mitt Romney must brace himself for tough personal attacks from President Barack Obama.
Bush, the former two-term governor of the Sunshine State, also said in an exclusive Newsmax.TV interview that he hopes Romney — as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee — will invite Florida’s charismatic first-term Sen. Marco Rubio to become his running mate. That may be the key to Republicans defeating Obama in November, he says.
“There will be so much negativity and so many personal attacks against Gov. Romney. That’s already been telegraphed that that’s going to happen,” Bush declared in an exclusive interview from his office near Miami.
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“I think Mitt needs to stay above the fray a bit, and to offer a hopeful message that can lift people’s spirits up because after the end of this four or five months of really negative campaigning,” Bush added. “ I think people are going to be motivated by a more positive message.”
Bush called Rubio “probably the best” candidate for vice president on a list that likely includes himself — the son of former President George H.W. Bush, and the brother of former President George W. Bush.
“Well I can’t speak for Gov. Romney, and I can’t speak for Sen. Rubio, but if I was on both sides of that conversation I would ask — and I would hope that Marco would accept,” Bush said. “There’s a lot of things in between that may not make that happen, but I am a great admirer of Mitt Romney’s and I’m a huge fan of Marco Rubio’s, and I think the combination would be extraordinary.”
With respect to his own response to such a call from Romney, Bush acknowledged, “Well I’d consider it, but I doubt I’ll get a call, and I don’t know if it’s the right thing for me to do. I didn’t run for president for a similar kind of reason, so I’m all in to try to help him get elected.”
Bush's short list of top-tier vice presidential candidates he thinks Mitt
Romney should consider includes Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
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Asked about the prospect of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice getting the nod, Bush indicated that she too would be a solid choice, echoing the findings of a recent CNN poll.
“She certainly, again brings tremendous foreign policy experience, and she’s just an extraordinary person,” he said. “So, as I said . . . this is a problem of abundance for Gov. Romney, which is a good thing.”
Admittedly, Bush’s mother — former first lady Barbara Bush — may be pressuring her son to take his place on the national stage along with his father and brother, but he remains non-committal about that prospect — at least publicly so.
“In 2016 my intent is to be supporting Mitt Romney’s re-election number one. Number two: Moms are moms,” he cautioned. “Moms love their children hopefully and they’re supportive of their children, and she wants what’s best for me. I’m putting words in my mother’s mouth which will get me in serious trouble, but she’s a huge Romney supporter, and as she should be.”
Asked about his private meetings with President Obama in the Oval Office with his father, George H.W. Bush, Bush said he was impressed by Obama and the fact he was "genuinely respectful" of his Dad.
He cautioned Republicans and Democrats to avoid personal attacks.
"I don't think we need to demonize the president," he said, noting he didn't like it when his brother George W. Bush was targeted for personal attacks during his presidency.
He described the presidency as a “great job” in reference to the bond those who hold the office share with one another — regardless of ideological differences.
“It’s a job that would be incredible to be in. But there are things that only presidents and former presidents can appreciate, so I think there’s a level of mutual respect there.”
For example, the elder Bush has grown close to former President Bill Clinton and maintains a healthy respect for Barack Obama on a personal level. “I think there’s kind of a president’s club,” Bush observed. “There are not that many people that are alive that have served in that position and understand the pressures that exist, understand the human toll.”
With Florida expected to once again figure prominently in the general election — “Florida!, Florida!, Florida!” as the late Tim Russert of NBC famously scribbled on a white board — Bush insists that it will be important for the GOP nominee to move past the border control issue when reaching out to the all-important Hispanic voters of his state and elsewhere in the nation.
“You get beyond that to talk about aspirational things,” he said. “The newly arrived to our country don’t want a handout. They’re not looking to get in line. They’re not looking to get a free lunch.”
He said that Hispanic voters want an opportunity to work hard and provide for their families. “They want to be able to dream — dreams that are big — and be able to pursue those dreams,” said Bush. “That spirit is what we need in our country to lift the cloud of pessimism that exists and restore long-term economic growth. So connecting with that sense of aspiration, I think which is truly a conservative message in my mind — limited government, and an abundance of opportunities for people — is really what we stand for, is what the message ought to be about.”
He believes that Romney’s prospects for victory are tied to the economy and that President Obama can no longer blame his brother for America’s woes.
“A lot will depend on how the economy’s doing and how job growth is taking place as we move through the summer into the Fall but we had a tepid recovery,” he said. “We have huge debt, huge deficit. The president can blame all sorts of other people, but the fact is he’s been president now for going on four years and the results are not as good as anybody would like.”
Moreover, he said, the effective unemployment rate is closer to 12 percent than the official 8.3 percent rate in government statistics. “It’s because people have given up hope trying to find a job. A lot of people have no chance of getting a job in their mind because the president hasn’t stimulated the private sector,” according to Bush. “In fact, by his policies and his rhetoric, he’s created so much uncertainty, and so much doubt, that people that invest to create the jobs in our society are doing so reluctantly — or not at all.”
As a former governor, Bush said he anticipates that a Romney administration would seek to build partnerships with the states on issues such as education.
“We should strive to move to a student-centered system where everything revolves around student learning, and less revolves around economic interests of the adults,” Bush explained, noting that Romney served as governor of Massachusetts which has achieved high marks for student achievement. “I think this is where Gov. Romney stands, and I think it’s the right place to be.”
In terms of Bush’s successor — Gov. Rick Scott — Bush said that Scott has taken a “business-like approach to government” consistent with his campaign message, while devoting less time to the public relations side of the job.
“I think he’s more interested in service. And the politics of politics doesn’t seem to interest him,” said Bush. “God bless him for that. I mean aren’t you tired of politicians that wake up each day kind of sticking their finger in the wind, and saying ‘ooh I better not do this?”
Bush also said he supports efforts by Michael Reagan, the son of the late president Ronald Reagan, to replace California’s full-time legislature with part-time lawmakers, mirroring the system used in Florida and 40 other states.
“I can’t imagine being governor of Florida with a full-time legislature. It would have driven me nuts personally,” he said. “But more importantly, you know, if you have a full-time legislature, the void is filled — and it’s filled with, a lot of times, just nonsensical stuff.”
With so much at stake in the general election, Bush stressed that it’s also important to have a Republican-controlled Senate.
To that extent, he recently came out in support of Republican senatorial candidate Josh Mandel of Ohio. “Josh is the real deal. I mean he’s a very energetic, very conservative, very smart guy,” said Bush.
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