In Miami, Bush promised to take his message across the country to any voter that would listen, including those that the Republican Party has struggled to reach in recent years.
"As a candidate, I intend to let everyone hear my message, including the many who can express their love of country in a different language," Bush said as he broke into Spanish. "I will campaign as I would serve, going everywhere, speaking to everyone, keeping my word, facing the issues without flinching, and staying true to what I believe."
Bush has, at times, encouraged the view of himself as a pragmatic reformer and consensus builder willing to defy the Republican base in order to expand the party’s reach and stake out forward-thinking policy positions. In 2013 he chided the party for allowing voters to believe that Republicans were “anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker.” In December, he made headlines when declaring that Republicans would have to “lose the primary to win the general.”
But that tone doesn’t necessarily match up with how Bush governed in Florida, aggressively pushing his conservative priorities with the help of a Republican legislature, said Robert Crew, a political science professor at Florida State University and the author of “Jeb Bush: Aggressive Conservatism in Florida.” Crew noted that Bush had little need or desire to reach out to Democrats across the aisle.
“He is and was as governor of Florida very conservative on all dimensions,” he said. “He was no pragmatist when he was a governor of Florida. He was an ideologue. He proposed things and pushed things through the Florida legislature, which idealized him. There wasn’t any compromise.”
Still, on two critical issues, Bush has gone against party orthodoxy. He has been unwavering in his support for immigration reform that would create a path to legal status for a portion of the nation’s undocumented immigrants. And he has been an outspoken defender of Common Core, a set of federal education standards that conservatives believe is a clear example of government overreach.
Hanna said that as Bush is officially launching his campaign, he has the time to tout his conservative record as governor and educate voters about the nuances of his stances.
“Once he gets to the voters and they can hear firsthand his positions on Common Core and immigration, I think he leaves most folks pretty satisfied,” he said. “It’s early. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”