Jeb Bush Calls for a Focus on Growth

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from The Wall Street Journal,

But Former Governor’s Detroit Speech Doesn’t Give Specifics on His Plan to Address ‘Opportunity Gap’.

Jeb Bush sketched out the main theme of his likely Republican presidential campaign on Wednesday, saying the nation should dedicate itself to economic “growth above all’’ as the prescription for helping Americans who are struggling amid an uneven recovery.

The former Florida governor, in his first major policy speech since forming a political-action committee to help give him a national platform, said the “opportunity gap’’ between the wealthy and those less well-off was “the defining issue of our time.’’

But Mr. Bush offered only the broad outlines of policy solutions and deferred to future comments his plans for how to achieve the 4% economic growth—well above the current average—that he said should be the nation’s goal.

Mr. Bush spoke at the Detroit Economic Club, which has hosted every president since Richard Nixon and a number of White House contenders. In response to a question from the audience, he acknowledged the challenge of carrying on his family’s legacy and said he dealt with similar questions during his gubernatorial bids.

“By the end of that journey, people knew I wasn’t just the brother of George W. and the son of my beloved dad,’’ he said. “I was my own person. I earned it by working hard to connect with people on a level that really mattered.”

Appearing in a state that hasn’t backed a GOP nominee since 1988, Mr. Bush dismissed the notion that “conservatives don’t care about the cities.” One of his selling points as a presidential candidate is that his fluent Spanish and commitment to immigration reform would help expand the GOP’s appeal in minority communities.

Mr. Bush’s appeal to the conservative grass roots will be tested next month when he plans to visit Iowa for the first time since signaling in mid-December that he would likely run for president. There, and in other early-voting states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina, he is likely to face tough questions from party activists about his support for the Common Core academic standards and legal protections for illegal immigrants, unpopular stances among many in the GOP base.

Mr. Bush didn’t directly refer to Common Core on Wednesday, but he talked up his overhaul of public education in Florida, which included establishing grade-level academic standards.

On immigration, Mr. Bush called for welcoming high-skilled workers, as well as “dreamers,” the children brought here illegally by their parents, though he criticized President Barack Obama for using an executive order to shield millions of undocumented workers from deportation.

Mr. Bush is trying to position himself as a Washington outsider eager to shake up the status quo while taking advantage of his family’s decades-old fundraising network. He derided Washington, D.C. as “the company town, and the company is government,” though he has been raising money there in recent weeks from lobbyists, corporate executives and other major Republican donors.

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