Bush Previews His Campaign Road Show
By Dan Balz and David Von Drehle
The governor, who has become the front-runner in early polls for the GOP nomination despite staying in Texas so far this year, promised a campaign that will be detailed and specific but said that first he wants "people to know my heart."
"You know I believe in specific agendas," said Bush, who already has been criticized by his rivals for being vague on major issues. Bush said, however, that before he details his plans for tax cuts or national defense or education, he wants to establish broad themes and positive tone that will be the foundation of his White House bid.
"I think it's important for our party to look at candidates and determine who's a uniter, not a divider," an emotional Bush told the fund-raising audience. "Who has proven that they know how to bring people together based upon common consensus?"
Bush said he would try to "elevate the dialogue" through a "positive, forthright and hopeful" message, and he made it clear that he would make changing the culture of politics in Washington a central theme. "I believe in positive campaigns," Bush said, adding, "The campaigns of personal destruction must end."
Bush will make his maiden voyage to Iowa and New Hampshire beginning June 12. He will spend much of June and July on the road, although he continues to describe the next phase of his campaign as still testing the waters nationally. But the thrust of his message tonight made it clear that he is itching for battle ahead.
Bush said he would make an issue of leadership. "I think I know what it takes to be a good leader, and that's what I'm going to talk about," he said.
Coming off a legislative session in which he got much of what he wanted but also gave ground to the Democrats, Bush said he would bring the same results-oriented politics to Washington. "I'm going to remind people that in this world of politics, it's results that matter," he said. "It's not the attempt of people to claim credit. It's not the photo ops. It's results."
Bush sketched a few simple principles that he said govern his policies: limited government, support of private enterprise, a strong military and strong families. He said that he would do what he could to continue the economic growth but that "prosperity without purpose is just materialism." Instead, Bush said he hopes to help "usher in what I call the responsibility era."
To those critics who have suggested that Bush is struggling to find a message and master the issues that will confront him as he moves from Texas to the national stage, he expressed confidence that his principles would guide him. "I don't need a poll or focus group to know what I believe," he said.
Bush said above all that he would show voters that "I'm an optimistic person," and he said he will campaign nationally as he has in Texas. "I can't change my accent, and I won't change my principles," he said. "And I'm always coming back to Texas."
Most of those who attended tonight's fund-raising event – the first in a series of that finance chairman Don Evans called thank-yous to Texas supporters – had already contributed to the campaign, most giving Bush the legal maximum of $1,000. For their generosity, they found small glass bowls of potato chips, pretzels and peanuts and a small table card that read: "Enjoy your peanuts and snacks! Texas money will be saved for Iowa and New Hampshire."
Even Bush joked about the "Southwest Airlines" event. "It's beer and peanuts," he said.
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