Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush talked up conservative leadership during his first swing through South Carolina since formally expressing interest in the Republican nomination for president in 2016.
“I’m kind of tired seeing the food fight, the constant crisis, never solving problems,” Bush told S.C. House Republicans at a reception in Columbia Tuesday. “In my mind, if we fix a few, big, complicated things we’ve let linger for too long, we’re on the verge of the greatest time of your lives.”
Bush told GOP political leaders in the early presidential primary state that Washington needs conservative leaders to simplify federal tax codes and regulations.
“We see what happens when we allow the progressive liberals to run wild,” Bush said. “They create massive complexity in our healthcare system ... (and) higher taxes for people that are making higher income. It’s not solving the chance of someone who is living in poverty ... to divide the country and say that people who are successful are the problem. The way to do it is from bottom up, where we build capacity so people can achieve earned success.”
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Bush promised if he decides to run for president, “I’ll be here a lot."
During a breakfast with Upstate chambers of commerce leaders earlier Tuesday, Bush defended his support of Common Core’s education standards and creating a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, saying it would help the economy.
Those issues pose a threat to Bush winning support from some S.C. Republican voters, who question his conservative credentials.
Before meeting with House Republicans later, Bush visited a domestic-violence safe house, run by West Columbia-based Sistercare, with GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.
Haley told reporters she has asked Bush for advice on curbing domestic violence, just as she had before on education issues. Haley started a domestic-violence task force this year. Bush said he and his wife have supported a private foundation that aids shelters, while Florida lawmakers have stiffened that state’s laws.
“Domestic violence is a serious problem in our country. It’s not just amongst the NFL,” Bush said, referring to several recent well-publicized incidents involving professional football players.
S.C. Democrats criticized Haley for using Sistercare as a political backdrop, when she has not included money in her proposed state budget for shelters. They called the term-limited governor’s visit with Bush an audition for her next job.
That is unlikely to deter Haley from her ongoing role, as she said, of being the “sweet host” for all GOP presidential hopefuls touring the state.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker arrives Thursday for his first S.C. visit since attending Haley’s re-election announcement in August 2013. They have a meeting planned at the Governor’s Mansion.
Haley repeated Tuesday she has no plans to endorse a candidate until closer to the 2016 primary. S.C. political experts expect she will endorse either Bush or Walker.
The Associated Press contributed.