PoliZette

Jeb Courts Replacement Voters en Español

Contrasting himself with Trump, he holds court at a Latino school

Speaking mostly in Spanish, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Tuesday captivated a roomful of Latino students in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. But will it play with a broader Republican electorate?

At a town hall with students at the historic La Progresiva Presbyterian School, Bush, speaking Spanish, said his favorite food is Mexican and even recommended a restaurant that is “authentic.”

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He touted his immigration reform plan, which calls for American citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. And he called for legal status for other immigrants who entered illegally, as long as they are otherwise law-abiding and pay a fine.

“Whatever your dream is that you want to do, you ought to have that right, and you ought to have the skills to achieve earned success, that it’s yours to go earn and go work with whatever passions you have, whatever your interests are,” Bush said. “That’s the society that will create greatness for our country again. The one where we’re told to get in line isn’t the one I’m aspiring to or believe in. I think the chaotic disruptive world creates more prosperity, more benefits, more innovations, more creativity than the get-in-line society.”

Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, questioned the strategy of emphasizing ties to Hispanics at time when a large chunk of Republican voters wants tighter controls on immigration.

The students at the school loved it. But Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, questioned the strategy of emphasizing ties to Hispanics at time when a large chunk of Republican voters wants tighter controls on immigration.

“I think for at least a portion of the Republican base, it’s a turnoff because they are anti-illegal immigrant, which is a problem they associate with Latinos,” Jewett said. “When they see their presidential candidate speaking Spanish, it probably rubs them the wrong way.”

Bush’s town hall came on a day in which his campaign hit back at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump with a one-minute-20-second video montage depicting the billionaire developer as a liberal.

The video includes several clips of Trump praising Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. In another clip, from a “Meet the Press” appearance, Trump refers to himself as “very pro choice in every respect.” In a 1999 clip, Trump says Canada’s government-run health care system “works extremely well.”

Six months ago, Jewett said, he would have been shocked to see Bush spending money on producing anti-Trump videos at this stage of the campaign.

“But given where Trump is now, and given how no matter what he says, his polls don’t seem to go down, I’m not surprised,” Jewett said, noting that money is Bush’s one great advantage in the GOP nomination contest.

Bush has been a frequent foil for Trump, who has kept up a relentless attack on the former Florida governor’s immigration record.

Trump is clobbering Jeb Bush in the polls nationally and in early primary states. In the latest RealClearPolitics average of national surveys, Bush is the choice of 9.5 percent of those polled. That’s a full 17 percentage points behind Trump.

Bush has been a frequent foil for Trump, who has kept up a relentless attack on the former Florida governor’s immigration record.

At the Miami school, Bush made a number of statements setting himself apart from Trump on the issues as he continues to ramp up attacks on the frontrunner. “We have a set of shared values that defines citizenship in this country,” Bush said, according to a report by NBC 6 South Florida. “It’s up to us to fulfill our destiny.”

The candidate also promised to combine border security with compassion for illegal immigrants already in the U.S., according to WSVN TV’s report.

Trump responded, “Yes, another weak hit by a candidate with a failing campaign. Will Jeb sink as low in the polls as the others who have gone after me?”

“We need to secure the border along with this because coming here legally oughta be easier than coming here illegally,” he said. “If you don’t secure the border, you create all sorts of public health challenges; you create national security challenges and you create rule-of-law challenges.”

There was also a Twitter back-and-forth on Tuesday between Bush and Trump. Bush tweeted a picture of a New York Times report about Nancy Pelosi assuming the speaker’s gavel in 2007. “Nancy, You are the Greatest. Good Luck,” Trump scrawled across the page.

Another tweet asks: “Why are you a Republican @realDonaldTrump … The answer is, you’re not”

Trump responded, “Yes, another weak hit by a candidate with a failing campaign. Will Jeb sink as low in the polls as the others who have gone after me?”

Later, he added, “Jeb is spending millions of dollars on ‘hit’ ads funded by lobbyists & special interests. Bad system.”

Jewett, the UCF professor, said Bush largely has stuck to his guns on immigration and the Common Core education standards, another sore spot among conservatives. In a Fox News appearance last month, Bush refused to back away from an earlier comment that he made calling illegal immigration “an act of love.”

The Trump campaign has used that infamous quote in a video attacking Bush’s position.

Bush may appeal to Republican voters worried about electability, Jewett said. But he added that the Bush strategy might be a bit “naive” given the current mood of the Republican electorate.

“You’ve got to win the primary before you can win the general (election),” Jewett said.

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PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected].