Thomas Beaumont and Sergio Bustos, Big Story, July 30, 2015
Following his own advice, Jeb Bush is taking his presidential campaign to the neighborhoods and churches where Hispanics and African Americans live and worship in an effort to broaden his appeal among minority voters.
The former Florida governor was in the central part of the state earlier this week, speaking to a diverse group of 150 pastors and other religious leaders, repeating his oft-stated pledge to campaign in “every nook and cranny” of the country. On Friday, he’ll be one of only two Republican presidential candidates to address the National Urban League’s annual conference, joining Hillary Rodham Clinton and two other Democrats seeking the White House.
“Republicans need to campaign everywhere. Not just amongst Latinos, but amongst blacks. It’s okay to get outside your comfort zone. It’s okay that not everybody agrees with my views,” Bush said Monday at his event outside Orlando. “It’s not okay to not try. That’s the difference.”
In his first run for governor in 1994, Bush campaigned as a self-described “head-banging conservative” who said he’d do “probably nothing” for African Americans, explaining he instead wanted “equality of opportunity” for all people. Bush lost that race, and then took a different tack four years later.
After traveling the state to meet with minority groups that typically align with Democrats, and touring hundreds of schools, he ran a winning campaign focused on schools and spoke often in black churches. William Andrews, executive director of Mercy Drive Ministries in Orlando, credits a statewide program Bush started once in office for helping him conquer his heroin and cocaine addiction.
“Mr. Bush sold me on becoming a Republican,” said Andrews, who is black.
For his part, Bush said this week his campaign does not have a Hispanic outreach strategy, because “outreach is a term that makes it sound like it’s on the periphery.”
“There is no outreach plan here, this is an integral part of my campaign,” said Bush, who is fluent in Spanish and whose wife, Columba, is a Mexican immigrant. “I have Hispanic children. I have Hispanic grandchildren. I’m part of the community.”
Bush and Ben Carson, a retired, African-American neurosurgeon, are the only two Republican candidates speaking at the event, where White House hopefuls are being asked to “share their visions for saving our cities.”
“We have to campaign all across this country with joy in our heart rather than anger,” Bush said Monday, “and go to places where Republicans haven’t been seen in a long, long while.”
[Editor’s Note: In a poll by Public Policy Polling, Donald Trump rates better among Hispanics than Jeb Bush (34 percent to 31 percent).