On Thursday evening, Jeb Bush showed that not only is he determined to defend and honor the foreign-policy record of his brother, he is also so adamant on being the 2016 Establishment presidential pick that he is willing to bring back the campaign strategies that Mitt Romney, who is not president, used in 2012. And by “strategies” we of course mean, “off-the-cuff remarks that were widely condemned.”
During the East Cooper Republican Women’s Club annual shrimp dinner in South Carolina on Thursday, Bush was asked, “Look around this room. How many black faces do you see? How are you going to include them and get them to vote for you?” The man who asked the question was white, as were most people in the room.
“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” Bush responded. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff.”
The line was very similar to one uttered by Mitt Romney while talking to donors about being booed at an NAACP event at a Montana fund-raiser. “I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this,” Romney said. “If they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free.” It wasn’t the first time he talked about getting free stuff from the other guy — he said the same thing to a voter who asked about free birth control, and when talking about young voters planning to vote for Obama again.
When asked why he didn’t have much support from minorities after his loss, Romney was still convinced that the free stuff he talked about was responsible for his loss. “I think the Obamacare attractiveness and feature was something we underestimated, particularly among lower incomes,” he explained to Fox News. “And just didn’t do as good a job in connecting with that audience as we should have.”
As with Romney, this isn’t the first time Bush has talked about “free stuff,” although it is the time he will likely get in the most trouble for it, based on the reaction so far this morning. Earlier this summer, Bush called Martin O’Malley’s college-affordability plan “more free stuff” — a remark that the Democratic National Committee quickly pushed back against.
When the New York Times reached out to the Bush campaign to hear an explanation for his response, a spokesperson “said that while the question posed to Mr. Bush alluded specifically to black voters, his response broadened the context to voters across the board.”
Later at the South Carolina event, Bush said, “I’m going to win South Carolina. Take it to the bank. I feel pretty confident about it. We’ve got a lot of support here. We’re well organized. And South Carolina’a been pretty good to the Bush family over the years.”