Probable presidential candidate Jeb Bush says he's open to allowing illegal immigrants to have a path to citizenship, like that outlined in the 2013 "Gang of Eight" immigration reform proposal
, but first the border needs to be controlled.
"If you could get a consensus done, where you could have a bill done and it was 15 years [to achieve citizenship] as the Senate Gang of Eight did, I'd be supportive of that," the former Florida governor told business leaders in Hudson, New Hampshire, over the weekend, reports The Wall Street Journal
But allowing amnesty alone is a "sentiment, that's not a plan," said Bush, describing his position as the "grown-up plan" on immigration.
"I think that the best plan, the most realistic plan, the grown-up plan, if you will, is once you control the border and you're confident it's not going to be another magnet, is to say, 'Let's let these folks achieve earned legal status where they work, where they come out of the shadows,'" said Bush.
However, he later told reporters that there is not sufficient political support for a pathway to citizenship.
Bush made his comments during his first visit to the Granite State since 2000, when his brother, George W. Bush, was campaigning for the White House. In addition to the speech in Hudson, Bush also had fundraising stops planned for Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Rep. Frank Guinta, both of whom represent the centrist Republicans Bush needs to do well in New Hampshire in 2016, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Bush can't rely on the powerful political machine of former Sen. Judd Gregg, like his brother did in 2000, said a local GOP leader, as Gregg has been out of office since 2009.
"That old Gregg machine is long gone," said former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen. "He doesn't start with personal relationships or a built-in organization that he inherits. He starts with quite a bit of good will toward the family but not a significant advantage."
Even though the New Hampshire tour had all the hallmarks of a presidential campaign, Bush continued to insist he is not yet running for office, but just "pursuing the possibility" of a campaign.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another potential candidate, has insisted that Bush is the front-runner, but the former Florida governor told reporters "I'm not a candidate ... Maybe he is, I don't know. You can't be a front-runner until you start running."
Walker, along with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, also made stops in New Hampshire over the weekend. None have yet officially announced their candidacies.
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