Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's political positions have evolved away from those held by conservatives on critical issues ranging from prison building to illegal immigration, The New York Times reports.
Over the past 20 years, Bush "has shifted away from a doctrinaire, and in a word, 'headbanging' version of conservatism, forged in the mold of Newt Gingrich's revolt-driven Republican Party, to a more nuanced approach, one influenced, colleagues said, by his immersion in the multiculturalism of Florida and his adoption of the Catholic faith," according to The Times.
His political evolution is a double-edged sword for Bush, who hopes it will help him broaden his political appeal beyond the Republican Party base. But it increases the danger that he will further alienate GOP conservatives — many of whom are already wary of electing a third Bush family member to the presidency.
Also, the long trail of Bush policy pronouncements since his unsuccessful 1994 run for governor of Florida "will inevitability [sic] invite suspicion from within his party that he lacks conservative conviction, a wariness that he needs to overcome to win the Republican nomination," according to the Times.
But Bush concluded that he needed to change after losing that race (the closest gubernatorial contest in Florida's history) to Democrat Lawton Chiles — a defeat the newspaper blames on Bush's "unstinting message of fiscal austerity."
Bush's tone has also changed markedly on homosexual rights. When the subject came up in 1994, the Times said, he declared that "polluters, pedophiles, pornographers, drunk drivers and developers without permits receive — and deserve — precious little representation or defense from their governor." He concluded that "we have enough special categories, enough victims."
Last week, by contrast, Bush urged
"respect" for same-sex unions and praised gay couples "making lifetime commitments to each other."
On the environment, a former Bush aide told the Times that as a candidate he had been "hostile" to environmentalist' positions in 1994. But later "his heart changed," the aide said, and as governor of Florida Bush spent billions of dollars on programs to protect the Everglades.
On immigration, Bush has moved away from his previous opposition to a pathway to citizenship for illegals. And on crime, he has evolved from pushing a get-tough approach toward juvenile offenders to warning that incarceration can turn low-level lawbreakers into hardened criminals.
These positions and stances taken by Bush on education and taxes have begun to draw fire from conservatives.
In a fundraising appeal last month, Shaun McCutcheon, chairman of the Conservative Action Fund, accused Bush of being "another establishment, compromising Republican."
"Will you support a nominee who supports amnesty for illegal immigrants, the Washington takeover of our educational system [known as Common Core], and is already talking about raising taxes?" McCutcheon reportedly wrote.
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