This hasn't been the best of times for Jeb Bush - he's been getting pushback after last week's presidential debate to drop out of the race. But during a speech Monday at the Tampa Garden Club, Bush said he's sticking to his long-term plan to win the White House.
If there was one theme from Jeb Bush's first campaign stop back home in Florida after last week's third GOP debate, it's that he's going to ignore the advice he's getting lately to perk up his lackluster campaign.
"Some is stylistic," he says. "Take off the suit coat. Ditch the glasses. Get rid of the purple striped tie."
Other pieces of advice, he says, were more strategic: "Nail that zinger, be angrier, hide your inner wonk." But Bush said he can't pretend to be something he's not.
"Getting things done isn't about yelling into a camera, or regurgitating sound bites free of substance," he told the crowd during a 22-minute speech.
"The campaign trail is littered with candidates disguised as television critics. Politicians echoing poll-tested pablum. But leadership is something far different. It's about telling people not what they want to hear, but what they must hear.
After Bush's speech, former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford said Jeb needs to stick to his guns.
"What he needs to do is what he did today," says Weatherford. "Which is be yourself. Run to win, and not try to placate to any specific group. Just tell people what to believe. I think he did that today. What we saw today was the governor who was here in Florida for eight years, that changed Florida's trajectory forever."
And former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker says Jeb has what it takes - if he can survive the debates.
"Here, we have a fellow who's a conservative, that has governed as a conservative, and he's been hugely successful," Baker said. " I think he's the best governor in the history of our state. He made such a difference during that period of time. He can do that for the country."
Bush on Monday also kicked off his new slogan - "Jeb Can Fix It," before going to attend events in Winter Park and Jacksonville.
GOP front-runner Ben Carson will be in the Tampa Bay area Tuesday, doing book-signings at 2:30 p.m. in Tampa at the Barnes and Noble on N. Dale Mabry Highway, and 6 p.m. at Books-A-Million in Lakeland.
Here's the transcript of Bush's speech:
“Thank you. It’s great to be in Tampa with so many friends. Today, we begin a four-day trip across Florida, South Carolina, and New Hampshire to tell the Florida story.
“The story of a big, diverse state, shaped by conservative, results-oriented leadership. Reforming government. Disrupting the status quo. Challenging the special interests. Restoring opportunity. Refusing to compromise in the defense of freedom. Lifting people up, not tearing them down. Standing up for everyone.
“Our story is about action. Doing, not just talking. Listening, not just lecturing. That is my story. And I’m so grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to lead this great state as your governor.
Last year, I decided that I wanted to share my story with people across the country. So, I wrote a book. Well really, I didn’t write it. Not in a traditional sense. I emailed it! They used to call me the e-governor. For eight years, I gave out my firstname.lastname@example.org email address to anyone who wanted to talk to me. And email they did! People across the state told me their stories. Sometimes they asked questions. Sometimes they asked for help. One lady asked me to get a raccoon out of her attic, and I got my team right on it! "But Floridians always gave me their opinions. And man, they didn’t hold back. So, I listened. I tried to answer every email. It wasn’t something I could have predicted at the start of my time in office, but this 8-year conversation with Florida shaped my governorship. So, in writing my book, I used my email exchanges to tell the Florida story. To tell about the work to turn one of America’s largest states into an economic engine where people could live, work and raise their family in safety and security… With huge promise for the future and free from the heavy hand of government. That is what my book is about.
Here is my shameless plug: The book is called ‘Reply All.’ It’s out today and you can get it on Amazon.com. Going back and re-reading these emails reminded me of the challenges we tackled together and how much can be accomplished with str ong, conservative leadership. That is why I am running for the Presidency of the United States.
You see, America is in a time of testing, at home and abroad. People are frustrated. People are worried about what the future holds for our nation. And I share that sentiment with them. Our economy has suffered its slowest recovery since the Great Depression. One in ten able-bodied Americans can’t find full-time work, or have given up looking altogether. One in seven Americans lives in poverty. One in five children is on food stamps. Barack Obama has given us two trillion dollars of new taxes, but still managed to grow the national debt by eight trillion – placing an immoral burden on working families and the next generation.
The world is in turmoil, as America withdraws from its responsibilities. ISIS has declared a Caliphate the size of Indiana. In Syria and Iraq, they are indiscriminately killing moderate Muslims, Christians, Western journalists …anyone who stands in the way of their fanatic ideology. Red lines get crossed without consequence, unleashing a humanitarian crisis as four million Syrian refugees flee their native land. Vladimir Putin is siding with the brutal Syrian dictator; sending weapons systems to Iran; and continuing to defy the Western world in Ukraine.
“All the while, our President has negotiated an agreement that gives legitimacy to Tehran and does nothing to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For the first time in the history of Israel, its greatest existential threat has been created by its greatest ally. The 2016 election arrives at the juncture of our failures abroad, and restlessness at home. And soon, Americans will once again enter a time for choosing … A chance to set a new course for the country.
As you may have heard, last week, I was in Colorado for the third Republican presidential debate. If you watched the debate, you probably came away thinking this election is about sound bites…or fantasy football…or which candidate can interrupt the loudest. I’m here to tell you it’s not. This election is not about a set of personalities. It’s about a set of principles. It is about leadership. It is about the right vision to lead America through turbulent waters, after two terms of a divider-in-chief who has sliced and diced the electorate by class, income, grievance and creed. So the choice we face is whether to summon the courage to give rise to an era of new possibility or to indulge this new age of cynicism.
"For all his promise, perhaps President Obama’s greatest accomplishment is that of creating competing pessimisms. Members of his own party are left explaining how two percent growth, massive debt, and increasing global isolation are really the best we can do. They speak in delusional terms about containing ISIS; about trusting the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism; about how the presence of Russian soldiers on Syrian soil doesn’t underscore the president’s empty words and total inaction. It’s not working.
“And all President Obama has left is the politics of divide and conquer. Signing lawless executive orders that ignore the Constitution and launching partisan attacks, such as comparing his critics to Iranian hard-liners. Americans have had enough of our president’s many strawman arguments. And, of a front-running candidate who blames a vast right wing conspiracy instead of taking personal responsibility, and who declares roughly half the country is her enemy. If Secretary Clinton has her way, the next four years will be like the last eight: gridlock, grievance, division, demonization. This is the only way they know how to win.
“On the issue of immigration, they have written a script for Republicans, filled with grievance and resentment. Frankly, the last thing they want is a Republican challenger who takes them out of their comfort zone of forced indignation and PC platitudes. But let me be clear: I’m not stepping into the role of “angry agitator” that they have created for us, because it’s not what’s in my heart. It is not true to the conservative cause. And, in the end, that role is just a bit part in the story of another conservative loss and another liberal victory. That’s their plan, and I’m not going to play along.
“But I fear the President has already succeeded in setting the trap for our party, bringing a new pessimism on the right. Some people on the debate stage talked of a country that was once great, but now is in dramatic decline. They say our best days are behind us. I acknowledge the difficulties and challenges we face. But I reject this kind of thinking. Not because I don’t understand it, but because I know it is not true. There is an important place in our politics for righteous indignation. But anger that leads to resentment without delivering results will take us down a path to perdition.
“I believe America’s best days are not behind us, but squarely in front of us. If we elect the right leadership. And as your President, I will fight every day with a reformer’s heart. I will lead. And I will tear down the barriers that keep Americans from rising up and realizing their God-given potential. I will do so keenly aware of the problems that give rise to the deep frustration all of us share …frustration over a porous border… workers’ wages remaining stagnant …and an ever-shrinking pie for families living paycheck to paycheck.
“This won’t be solved with more talk. The answer isn’t sending someone from one side of the capital city to the other. The solution won’t be found in someone who has never demonstrated the capacity to implement conservative ideas. And you can’t just tell Congress… ‘You’re Fired’… and go to a commercial break. You have to bring people together to solve problems. The challenges we face as a nation are too great to roll the dice on another presidential experiment. To trust the rhetoric of reform over a record of reform. After seven years of incompetence, corruption and gridlock in Washington, we need a president who can fix it. I can fix it.
“After seven years of historic cuts to our military…a foreign policy based on leading from behind…the emboldening of our enemies and the isolation of our allies…we need a president who fixes America’s standing abroad. I can fix it. After seven years of massive deficits, historic debt, and a president who vetoes defense spending because he wants more reckless spending, we need a president who fixes our budgetary mess. I can fix it. I know I can fix it…because I’ve done it.
“In Florida, we showed how strong, hands-on leadership could make a difference in the lives of people. I gave out my e-mail address because I wanted Floridians to know that their governor cared about them and wanted to help solve their problems. I remember emailing with an honor student named Kirsty Edwards who couldn’t pass the FCAT to graduate because of her disability. We listened and changed the law so Kirsty could get her high school diploma and go onto graduate from college. I remember emailing with single moms like Tina Calloway who needed help collecting child support from absent fathers. Their calls for assistance motivated us to increase child support collection by 90 percent.
“And I remember emailing with teachers like Alleen Miller who joined our cause of improving schools, even though their union pressured them to fight us every step of the way. I went to Tallahassee as an agent of change. I turned the political culture of Tallahassee upside down. I’m putting The Beltway on notice. I’ll turn Washington upside down too. We took on the teachers union to make Florida a national leader in parental choice and school accountability. We took on the public employee union to shrink the size of the state bureaucracy by 11 percent.
“We took on trial lawyers to rein in frivolous lawsuits and make our business climate more conducive to small business growth. And we took on big spending politicians from both parties to balance eight budgets and cut taxes eight years in a row by a total of $19 billion dollars. By the way, I vetoed 2,500 line items, eliminating more than $2 billion dollars of pork-barrel spending. My good friend and the Speaker of the House, John Thrasher, reacted by calling me Veto Corleone. That was not meant as a term of endearment at the time, but I wear it as a badge of honor today.
“The story of my governorship was one of using conservative principles to provide people with opportunity to improve their lives. I governed on the premise that there are no second class citizens. No second rate dreams. In America, every citizen is an asset. Every life matters. And every American has a right to rise to their God-given potential. If you want a president who maintains the status quo, I am not your candidate. But if you want fundamental conservative reform…reform that can be found in the record, not just the rhetoric…then I ask for your support.
“Our times are difficult, but not nearly as difficult as what Lincoln faced when he took office … what FDR faced on December 8th of 1941. We have long been blessed with a benevolent presidency. Leaders who turned both our highest hopes and our worst fears into dramatic, lasting change that left the world a better place. Leaders who held the nation’s highest office with humility. Who went on bended knee before God, asking His help in carrying out orders that would determine the fate of millions.
“It was Lincoln who spoke at his second Inauguration … a few weeks before the end of the war … soothing words of healing and hope, ‘With malice toward none, with charity for all. With firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in…’ If Lincoln were alive today, imagine the foolishness he would have to suffer. Advisers telling him to shave his beard. Cable pundits telling him to lose the top hat. Opposition researchers calling him a five-time loser before the age of 50.
“I have gotten a lot of advice lately myself…more than enough. Some is stylistic. Take off the suit coat. Ditch the glasses. Get rid of the purple striped tie. Man, I like that tie. Some advice is more strategic. Nail that zinger. Be angrier. Hide your inner wonk. But I have learned two important things from my time serving the people of Florida: One, I can’t be someone I’m not. And, two, getting things done isn’t about yelling into a camera, or regurgitating sound bites free of substance. The campaign trail is littered with candidates disguised as television critics. Politicians echoing poll-tested pabulum.
“But leadership is something far different. It’s not about telling people what they want to hear, but what they must hear. It’s not about saying the right thing, but doing the right thing. And it’s not about tearing people down, but about bringing people together. I will do everything in my power to win this race, but there are some things I am not willing to do:
I will not compromise my principles, I will not trade in an optimistic outlook to put on the cloak of an angry agitator. And I will not make anyone feel small so I can feel big. Americans are looking for a president, not a pundit…a leader and not a protester. For seven years we have been led by a cynic-in-chief. It is time we elected a Commander-in-chief. A president who knows leadership involves summoning the will and creativity to solve tomorrow’s challenges and seize tomorrow’s opportunities.
"I am running this campaign on my own terms. And let me tell you something: when the dust clears, and the delegates are counted, we will win this campaign. I will be true to myself, optimistic and inclusive. I will win appealing to our better angels, and not our greatest fears. And I will win with a message that welcomes all and includes all, because I will be a president who fights for all. Join me in this journey. Fight with me as we work to fundamentally change the culture of Washington.
“Let us seek to redeem the promise of a fledgling Republic formed well over 200 years ago. A land full of endless promise and limitless possibility for all so blessed to be called Americans. The future is in our hands. Let us seize it together with faith, hope and trust. In ourselves. In one another. In the God who made us and guides us. Thank you. God bless America.”