Jeb Bush: Mitt Romney Needs ‘Broader’ Message on Immigration

Photograph by Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

Former Gov. Jeb Bush at the Hispanic Leadership Network's conference on Jan. 26, 2012 in Miami.

Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, says Republican Mitt Romney will need to find a “broader” message on immigration to gain ground with Hispanic voters who have given increasing support to Democrats in presidential elections.

“I guess it would be tone,” Bush said of what his party needs to regain ground.

“Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled borders,” Bush said at a breakfast sponsored by Bloomberg View in New York today. “It’s kind of insulting when you think about it. Change the tone would be the first thing. Second, on immigration, I think we need to have a broader approach.”

Bush, who refrained from endorsing anyone in the Republican primaries before Florida’s vote on Jan. 31, since has backed Romney. Asked what Romney needs to do to overcome a gap with Hispanic voters — who went for President Barack Obama by a margin of 67-31 percent in 2008 — Bush said:

“I think he needs to campaign in Hispanic communities, which he’s doing. I think he needs to broaden the issue out, to make it an economics issue as much as it is a question of rule of law… Have a broader message and have a more intense message. There is work to do , though.”

In the primaries, Bush said, Romney understandably addressed legitimate concerns of voters concerned about broken borders. “Governor Romney has used this as a means to contact with a group of voters who were quite angry… so he’s in somewhat of a box,’ Bush said. “The broader question is how you get out of it.”

Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico and who made his business career in a multicultural South Florida before election as governor in 1998, said: “I do feel a little out of step with my party on this. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe what I believe.. so what, It’s OK, isn’t it?

“I hope we don’t all have this march… if someone is a conservative or a liberal, we’re sent this little book that says, ‘you must not veer.”’

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