2:05pm March 24, 2012

Can Jeb Bush Save Romney from Himself?


It was the endorsement we’d all been waiting for. This week, Jeb Bush announced his support of Mitt Romney’s presidential bid and put to bed weeks of speculation over whether Bush himself was considering a late entrance into the Republican race.

While Bush’s second-half endorsement answers questions about the GOP establishment coalescing around Romney, it also raises new questions about the influence Bush will have over Romney’s campaign.

At the Hispanic Leadership Conference this January, Bush urged party leaders to tamp down their rhetoric on immigration, and admitted during a brief press availability that he did not know if then-frontrunners Romney or Newt Gingrich could win a majority of the Hispanic vote.  Rather, he suggested, both could “reverse a trend” of Latino supporters detracting from the GOP.

But the most telling moment was Bush downplaying Romney’s statement that he would have vetoed the DREAM Act by suggesting that Romney had “moderated or at least amplified his views to provide a little more nuance.” How much of that moderation and amplification can be attributed to pressure from Bush? More importantly, how much more can Bush nudge Romney towards reform?

In a 2011 editorial board interview with the Washington Examiner, Romney responded to a question about immigration by saying, “I actually have a plan in mind.” He then dropped Jeb Bush’s name, saying that he’d met with him months earlier to discuss such a plan. Given the positions Romney has taken on immigration policy, in contrast with Bush’s positions on reform, it would seem that either he and Bush did not agree on much at the time of their meeting, or that Romney went into the primary with one immigration plan and came out with another.

That might explain why almost four months after saying he had an immigration plan, Romney hasn’t revealed it. Already, Democrats are pressuring Romney to unveil his  proposal, suggesting that he either does not have a plan or he is reluctant to share it with voters.

“As the leading Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney has the responsibility to inform voters about what actions he intends to take if he were elected,” said American Bridge president Rodell Mollineau in a statement.“For him to have policy proposals that he refuses to disclose is an affront to voters and a slap in the face to the democratic process. What else is he hiding?”

Even if there is time for Bush to help the Romney campaign soften their rhetoric on immigration in time to reveal a more middle-of-the-road plan, Bush will never be able to get Romney to where he wants him to be on the issue without creating or adding to the perception of Romney as a disingenuous Etch-a-Sketcher. And even if Bush was able to move Romney to common sense positions on DREAM or comprehensive reform, would Latino voters ever be able to trust that Romney wouldn’t once again reverse course?

“Mitt Romney thinks he can erase his belief that many immigrants just come to America for a ‘free deal’ and that they will ‘self-deport’ when their lives are made unpleasant,” said Bill Burton, senior strategist for Priorities USA Action. “But the reality is, we won’t let him back off his vision to make the extreme Arizona immigration law a national model.”

For Bush, endorsing Romney positions him as a team-player – but if Bush cannot get Romney to soften his rhetoric and his position on immigration, it also comes with the potential of varnishing Bush’s good standing within the Latino community. The challenge for Bush is to figure out how far he can push Romney on reform so that he can claim successful influence without exacerbating existing perceptions of Romney as a flip-flopper.

About the Author

Alicia Menendez
Follow Alicia on Twitter: @AliciaMenendez



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  1. diana

    I don't think that Jeb's endorsement is going to make a difference for Romney. It's too late. Everyone knows that Jeb is pushing the button for the lesser of two evils. Funny, neither Romney or Santorum hold a candle to Jeb. I guess we will have to wait for Jeb to run in 2016!

  2. Tracy

    I am still hoping for a brokered convention and Jeb Stepping up ans the candidate for President of the Unites States of America. I really hope this will happen.

  3. Frank

    it is going to be interesting to see what conservative Hispanics will do when Romney is confirmed as the nominee. They may like Romney's fiscal policy, but his stance on immigration will be tough to swallow. Romney should have listened to Jeb.

  4. Carlos

    This piece confirms the importance of the Hispanic vote in the next election. The Hispanic vote is the new swing vote because this voting block is not always married to a political party. If Romney does not follow Jeb's advice and he gets it wrong on immigration – he will lose the election.

  5. Lisa Lynn R.

    If Jeb had to back someone, it really did need to be Romney, but I was hoping Jeb himself would have stepped up and put his name on the ballot. I think it would have been the Republican's only chance to win the election.

  6. GRogers

    Okay, so Jeb Bush backs Romney. Really…..what other choice did he have? Of course his best choice would have been to run himself……maybe he still will!! Now that would be a great strategy for the Republican Party!! (And probably the only hope they may have to win!)

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