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Stephen Colbert tries, but fails to knock Jeb Bush off script

This item has been updated.

Quick: Think of the last time you heard a late-night talk show guest mutter the word "connotes."

Well, Jeb Bush did it during his appearance Tuesday on the debut of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

Maybe it's a first -- it definitely was for Colbert -- who took over the CBS late-night program on Tuesday night and heralded Bush has his first political guest.

[Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ premiere: Donald Trump jokes, Jon Stewart cameo, George Clooney sit-down]

The former Florida governor and Republican presidential candidate mostly stuck to his script, repeating lines and jokes he uses on the campaign trail to explain and defend his candidacy, and how he differs with his older brother, former President George W. Bush.

"You are, with one exception aside, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination," Colbert told Bush. "Odds-on bet. Odds-on bet. Tell the American people why you want to be president?"

"Because I think we’re on the verge of the greatest time to be alive," Bush replied, using a wind-up he shares with voters virtually every time he holds a town hall meeting.

"We haven’t passed budgets, there’s no priorities, no reform. We’re operating not on all cylinders," he added.

Colbert cut him off, asking whether Bush thought he could genuinely bring together the two political parties. Bush said he could.

"I’m going to say something that’s heretic, I guess. I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives. I just think he’s wrong on a lot of issues," Bush said.

A portion of the audience seemed eager to clap at the first part of Bush's comments -- but stopped when they heard Bush say that Obama is "wrong." Colbert suggested that next time, Bush should work on his dramatic pauses.

Laughing it off, Bush persisted: "Look, in state capitals this doesn’t happen to the same extent that it does in Washington. In the mayor’s office … you can be friends with people you don’t agree with. I mean, we have to restore a degree of civility."

"There is a non-zero chance that I would vote for you," Colbert said. "You seem like a very reasonable guy."

As for "connotes," the word came up when Colbert asked about Bush's campaign logo -- his first name with an exclamation point.

"I’ve been using 'Jeb!' since 1994," he explained. "It connotes excitement."

The crowd laughed -- maybe because Bush stated the obvious. Or maybe the audience was recalling GOP frontrunner Donald Trump's recent suggestions that Bush is too "low-energy" to be president.

Colbert turned next to family politics, noting that he often disagrees politically with his older siblings. He called out his older brother, Jay, who was in the audience. The youngest of 11 children, Colbert and his siblings grew up in Charleston, S.C.

"Does Jay live in South Carolina, just out of curiosity?" Bush asked.

Colbert said that he does.

"I want your vote in the primary," Bush said.

"Good, good, good, no, you gotta go for it, anywhere you can," Colbert said.

Returning to the subject of family, Colbert persisted: "In what ways do you politically differ from your brother, George?"

"Well, I'm obviously younger, much better looking," Bush said.

"Policy though," the host asked.

Jeb Bush said that George W. Bush "should have brought the hammer down when they were spending way too much, because our brand is limited government."

"He didn't veto things, he didn't bring order and fiscal restraint," he added.

"So he was not conservative enough?" Colbert asked.

"On spending," the governor said.

With that, Colbert ended the interview, seemingly catching Bush off-guard, who was (justifiably) probably expecting more air time. But earlier bits introducing viewers to the new set, jokes about Trump and an interview with actor George Clooney ate up a good chunk of a show that ran over its allotted time slot.

Bush made his late night television debut in June, appearing on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on NBC shortly after launching his presidential bid. Beyond that, he keeps most of his television appearances to the Fox News Channel. On Wednesday, Bush is scheduled to appear on the news network's "Fox and Friends" morning show and CNBC's "Squawk Box" to tout his new tax reform plan.


Proving that the debut episode ran really long, Colbert released a web-only clip from the extended interview with Bush. (He called it a Jeb! Bonus! Clip!):

The clip included a viewer-submitted question about gun violence. Bush pushed for states to implement changes to background checks that would account for the mental health of gun owners.

Attention turned next to the "The big orange elephant in the room," Trump.

"You got another debate coming up in about a week on CNN," Colbert said, saying he wanted to help Bush prepare by having give "Trumpier" answers.

"I will build a wall between the United States and Iran -- and make Mexico pay for it," Bush said -- reading off of a teleprompter.

He continued: "Trucks are strong. I will turn the National Mall into a luxury golf course -- and China will respect. I promise to put meatloaf on the ten dollar bill. And give Lil' John a Cabinet position, which will send the message that this country will never -- turn down for what?"