WASHINGTON — Saying "demography is destiny," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told a Faith & Freedom Coalition crowd Friday that "more fertile" immigrants are needed to help keep America's population young and to sustain a healthy economy.
"Immigrants create far more businesses than native-born Americans over the last 20 years," Bush said. "Immigrants are more fertile, and they love families, and they have more intact families, and they bring a younger population. Immigrants create an engine of economic prosperity."
Bush's unusual phrasing about fertility (his point was that Americans are having fewer children) made the rounds on Twitter. But his message echoed what he said during a forum Thursday in Washington. He too calls for more border security but thinks the best case for immigration reform is economic stability, saying other countries such as Japan and China are trying to find younger workers.
The message seemed to fall flat with the social conservative crowd, which applauded Bush's other points on education and energy independence. But afterward, Roman Buhler of McLean, Va., said Bush's approach to immigration is "spot on."
"You have some speakers that look for applause lines," Buhler said. "I've heard a lot of rhetoric at this conference but Jeb Bush had an actual policy agenda conservatives can follow."
A few more nuggets:
• On his brother, former President George W. Bush: "I'm very proud that he has maintained a posture of not chirping on the sidelines."
• On family: "My life's hope has come true. I'm a grandfather. I have a 22-month little munchkin called Georgia Helena Walker Bush. If you kind of get the initials you know where that comes from. I actually secretly call her 41 when I get to babysit. Then last week, (son) George and Mandy in Fort Worth, Texas, brought Prescott Walker Bush into the world. All the rest of this stuff is kind of irrelevant."
• On the GOP: "Right now it seems like we're focused fighting on what strain of conservatism should be dominant. I would argue the focus should be on how we govern again, which requires a broader, principled message. I believe our path to resurgence is through a hopeful, optimistic message based on conservative principles. … If we were to create a mission statement it would be something like this: How can we be an ever young country again through high sustained economic growth and how can we assure that all citizens, not just those who have already made it, have a chance to benefit from that growth."