Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush can win the GOP nomination for president in 2016 as an establishment Republican candidate, but it won't be easy making it through the primaries, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said.
Despite influence from the more conservative factions of the party, Pawlenty said Bush could capture the nomination just as other GOP establishment candidates had done, most recently Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012.
"Well, the classic question is, can an 'established candidate' get through an increasingly conservative Republican party?" Pawlenty told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday.
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"Jeb [Bush] can do that, but it's not going to be uncontested in so many runs. And there's a bunch of people who are going to get in the race and have something to say about it," he added.
The Republican Party had "shifted," Pawlenty said, and explained it wasn't so much the tea party, but the "libertarian wing" that could present problems for Bush.
Pawlenty, a Republican, said he supported "rational and comprehensive immigration reform." However, he predicted lawmakers aren't "going to get it done this year."
As for the economy, if Republicans wanted to show they embrace middle-class issues, Pawlenty suggested they "support reasonable increases in the minimum wage."
"If you're going to talk the talk about being for the middle class and the working person, if we have a minimum wage, it should be reasonably adjusted from time to time," he said.
On international affairs, Pawlenty described the policies of President Barack Obama as "a bit adrift." He said the president couldn't "run it by polls" concerning decisions on foreign policy and defense.
"The president's going to have to put the first principle first, which is you've got to keep the nation safe. And you've got to let the polls decide whether that was right from a historical perspective," he said.
Pawlenty suggested the United States needed to "dial up the heat" in confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said weakness on the world stage on issues regarding Syria and Iran could have "cascading effects."
"If they give a bully weakness, and you show them weakness, they'll take it," he said.
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