Jeb Bush finds Republican debates ‘a little troubling’

at 09:37 AM ET, 02/24/2012

A man whom many Republicans hoped would run for president is worried about the GOP primary field.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is voicing concern about the GOP field. (Wilfredo Lee - AP)

“I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are,” former Florida governor Jeb Bush said in a Dallas speech Thursday, Fox News reported. “I think it changes when we get to the general election. I hope.”

In an interview with CBS News after the event, Bush added, “I think it’s important for the candidates to recognize they have to appeal to primary voters, and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition.”

Asked about his comments, Bush told The Fix, “I am a conservative and I think we should be offering a compelling, optimistic vision and plan to deal with our structural problems as a nation.”

He isn’t the only high-profile Republican to express such unease. Former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour has suggested that the candidates are not focused enough on electability.

[I]n our party it’s an advantage to be more conservative, but I think at the end of the day most Republicans want someone who can beat Barack Obama,” he told ABC News on Wednesday. “I don’t think that any of them has successfully made the case that ‘I am the guy who’s got the best chance to beat Obama.’”

Bush has previously warned Republican candidates to adjust their “tone” on immigration policy specifically. But his comments Thursday suggest a broader concern.

Wednesday’s debate, in which jobs were barely mentioned and wedge issues dominated, may have caused party elites some consternation.

At one point, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum suggested a bleak view of America’s future due to increasing immorality: “We hear this all time -- so you cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything’s not going to be fine.”

He repudiated his vote for ”No Child Left Behind,” a sweeping bipartisan education reform, saying he had to do it for the party.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that Iran would get nuclear weapons if President Obama is re-elected.. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich added, “We live in an age when we have to genuinely worry about nuclear weapons going off in our own cities . . . . I believe this is the most dangerous president on national security grounds in American history.”

Staff writer Aaron Blake contributed to this report.

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