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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jeb Bush brushes off Mitt Romney's doubts

5

January

Jeb Bush responded Tuesday to Mitt Romney’s doubts about Bush — and all that last name comes with — becoming the GOP nominee.

“You can't beat Hillary Clinton who has no record, or a record of failure with someone who doesn't have a record at all and that was the case I made to Mitt and it's the case I make to you all and to people here in New Hampshire,” Bush said on Morning Joe. “I have a proven record, a conservative record that brought people towards our cause rather than push them away and Hillary Clinton needs to be taken on because of her failed record. You can only do that if you have a good one.”

Romney’s comments came in a Sunday Washington Post tick tock of the campaign to date.

Romney believed that, if he passed on the race, Bush would be the most likely nominee. Privately, he harbored serious doubts about Bush’s ability to beat Clinton. He recalled thinking, “I like Jeb a lot, I think he’d be a great president, but felt he was unfairly but severely burdened by the W. years — and when I say the W. years, it’s not only what happened to the economy, but the tragedy in Iraq.” He added, “A Bush-versus-Clinton head-to-head would be too easy for the Democrats.”

On Jan. 22, Bush flew to Utah, where the Romneys were settling into a new home in the Salt Lake City suburb of Holladay, to pay Mitt a courtesy visit. The date had been set long before Romney expressed interest in running. The two men exchanged pleasantries and updated each other on their growing families; four days earlier, Romney’s 23rd grandchild was born.

Then they got down to business. Romney told Bush about the private polls that showed him performing well in the early voting states. “It’s opened up a door that I didn’t think would be open to me,” he recalled telling Bush.

Romney also said he confronted Bush with his fears about his candidacy: “Jeb, to be very honest, I think it’s very hard for you to post up against Hillary Clinton and to separate yourself from the difficulty of the W. years and compare them with the Clinton years.” He said Bush responded by saying that “he was going to make his campaign about the future, not about the past.”

“I didn’t say anything at that point,” Romney recalled. “But as he left, I said to myself, ‘Gosh, in my opinion, it’s not going to be as easy to make that separation as I think he gives the impression it will be.’ One of the few things I predicted that turned out to be true.”

Bush, through a spokesman, declined repeated requests to be interviewed.

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2016 9:35am]

    

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