GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA—A capacity crowd of hundreds came out to see former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush, one day before voters cast their ballots in the South Carolina Republican Primary.
Before taking questions from attendees, Bush told the audience that “this is not a [Sen. Marco] Rubio town hall, we actually answer questions here.” That was a dig at Rubio, who has held several events described as “town halls” but has not taken audience questions.
The Bush campaign has experienced an apparent surge in enthusiasm this week. It showed here at his event at the Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Greenville, where many were forced to stand in the back of the room when they ran out of chairs to accommodate attendees.
“He was standing up to Trump when everyone else was hiding in the corner,” GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham said when introducing the former Florida governor.
Gov. Bush was joined by his son, Jeb Bush Jr., two of his brothers, his wife Columba, and his mother Barbara.
“Trump is a master at” dividing the American people, just like President Barack Obama, Bush alleged.
“America is at its best when we have a set of shared principles and beliefs… that’s what makes us extraordinary and exceptional,” he added. “I won’t be a divider. I will focus on the things that bring us together.”
“Donald Trump has never shown interest in anything other than himself,” Bush said, arguing that Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have not made the “tough decisions” or displayed the “backbone” needed to lead the nation as President.
Bush said the President’s most important job is to support the military. He also pledged not to be a “big talker” without backing up his words. He cited Obama’s inaction on his red-line in Syria and how he called the Islamic State a “JV team.”
“Maybe we should speak a little bit less, but act a little bit more,” he suggested.
The United States needs to “establish the relationship with Israel,” Bush said, adding that one of his first acts would be to “announce that we are moving” the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Our enemies need to fear us” and understand there should be a “price to pay” when our adversaries, like Russia and China, encroach upon sovereign states, he added.
Bush said it “doesn’t bother me a bit” that he is considered to be in the “establishment lane,” given his association with the former presidents that share his last name. However, he said there is “nothing in my life that suggests I am a protector of the status quo.”
“We turned the place upside down,” he said of his record in Florida. “We had eight balanced budgets… and a triple A bond rating… no one came close to that in the country.”
He continued targeting Donald Trump a man who is “insulting women, Hispanics, the disabled, POWs like John McCain.” “You don’t tear people down, you don’t insult them,” he said.
“A conservative will never win by pushing people down… a conservative will win with a hopeful, optimistic message,” Bush told supporters. “I’m the guy that can beat Hillary Clinton because I have a proven record.”
An attendee asked Bush who he would choose for the Supreme Court to fill the void left by Justice Antonin Scalia. “Intellectual acumen, persuasive skills,” and a “consistent record of judicial thought,” Bush responded, saying that their views need to be consistent and respectful of the constitution.
Earlier in the day, on the Sirius/XM Breitbart News Daily daily show, Gov. Bush slammed Marco Rubio for his lack of foreign affairs experience.
Bush said that Rubio may have attended a few foreign policy meetings in the Senate, but revealed, “He hasn’t even traveled to Iraq” to see what was going on from the ground.