Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has clearly decidedly softened his anti-Donald Trump tone after attacks on the billionaire real estate magnate—his biggest 2016 intra-GOP competition at this point—have backfired.
“No—I haven’t. I haven’t been preparing. But clearly he’s going to be in the debates. And I’m going to have to deal with it for sure. My guess is I’ll be a target but it doesn’t bother me a bit,” Bush told Ward.
That directly contradicts Politico’s earlier report, in which Isenstadt wrote that Bush “is bracing for the possibility of a presidential debate pile-on — with Trump leading the charge.” Isenstadt wrote:
In recent months, Bush has immersed himself in planning for the debate, holding mock sessions with advisers. Last week, after huddling with top donors at the family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, the former governor spent his time in debate study, according to two people who’d been in touch with him. By the end of the process, said another source, Bush could end up spending as much as 50 hours in preparation, an amount that far surpasses what Mitt Romney had done at this point during the last Republican primary.
Isenstadt’s article goes on for several hundred more words detailing how Bush is reportedly preparing overtime for debates, something the former Florida governor clearly disputes in the interview with Ward.
In a follow-up question to Bush, Yahoo’s Ward asked about what Trump’s surge in the polls means for candidates like him. In his answer, he conceded entirely that Trump has a point in what he’s been saying and doing—completely backing down from his previous criticisms of Trump’s comments. Bush said:
People are deeply disaffected. They’re angry. They see the country kind of moving away from its foundational principles. They see the rule of law not being applied. They see here in San Francisco, a sanctuary city, where a person who had been deported five times commits a violent crime—he should have been in prison to begin with—and was released, and this city does not cooperate with ICE. They see this stuff and they’re legitimately angry. Now the challenge is do we prey on their fears and angst—legitimate fears and legitimate concerns—or do we offer solutions? I totally respect and get why people are upset about this, completely. My heart goes out to the family of this precious beautiful girl that was killed. But we should solve this problem. This has been lingering now for how long? Immigration reform needs to start with border control and move on beyond that. And I have solutions for these things. And my campaign will be about leadership, not about trying to prey on people’s fears which I think is what Donald Trump is doing.
That answer, while still critical of Trump in that he accuses Trump of “trying to prey on people’s fear,” is completely different from what Bush said when Trump laid out how big a concern illegal aliens committing crimes is in his presidential announcement speech. In a statement after failed 2012 GOP nominee former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney attacked Trump’s immigration comments regarding illegal alien crime, Bush called Trump’s remarks raising these concerns—concerns Bush now, in this interview on Thursday with Ward from Yahoo News, calls “legitimate”—comments that were “extraordinarily ugly.”
“I don’t think he represents the Republican Party, and his views are way out of the mainstream of what Republicans think,” Bush said in New Hampshire on the Fourth of July. “No one suggests that we shouldn’t control our borders – everybody has a belief that we should control our borders. But to make these extraordinarily ugly kind of comments is not reflective of the Republican Party. Trump is wrong on this.”
Now a couple weeks later, as Trump has surpassed him in the polls while sticking by his accurate immigration comments—a Fox News poll out Thursday has Trump clearly leading Bush and also has Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another immigration hardliner, beating Bush—Bush has backed down and admits illegal alien criminals are a serious and “legitimate” concern. It’s the latest in several recent polls that show Trump is the clear 2016 GOP frontrunner.