WASHINGTON | By Steve Holland
Republican Jeb Bush launched a campaign reboot on Monday after weeks of negative headlines to present himself as a can-do conservative who will fight what he called a "new age of cynicism" that has seeped into the 2016 presidential race.
Bush's bid for a political comeback began in Tampa, Florida, with a speech marking the start of a "Jeb Can Fix It Tour." At the same time, he released an e-book that reveals a more personal side to a candidate who has struggled on the public stage.
His dismal performance at a Republican presidential candidates' debate last week in Colorado was an added burden to a candidate once considered the favorite for the nomination to represent the party in the November 2016 election. Now, Bush suffers drooping opinion poll numbers and fund-raising.
In his speech, Bush attempted to resurrect his image as a joyful warrior, presenting himself as a positive force who implemented conservative policies as two-term governor of Florida from 1999-2007.
"I will do everything in my power to win this race," he said. "But there are some things I am not willing to do: I will not compromise my principles. I will not trade in an optimistic outlook to put on the cloak of an angry agitator."
Without mentioning by name the two Republican front-runners, non-politicians Donald Trump and Ben Carson, Bush sought to raise doubts about entrusting the reins of government to "someone who has never demonstrated the capacity to implement conservative ideas."
"And you can't just tell Congress, 'You're fired,' and go to a commercial break," Bush said, referring to Trump's signature line from his appearances on NBC's reality TV show, "The Apprentice."
Bush said, "The choice we face is whether to summon the courage to give rise to an era of new possibility or to indulge this new age of cynicism."
He also appeared to acknowledge that he lacks the style of some of his competitors, saying he has resisted a lot of advice lately on how to present himself.
"Some advice is more strategic. 'Nail that zinger.' 'Hide your inner wonk'," he said. "One, I can't be someone I'm not. And two, getting things done isn't about yelling into a camera."
He will take the message to South Carolina and then on a three-day bus tour of New Hampshire.
The tour coincides with the release of a 730-page e-book, entitled "Reply All." It is a compilation of many of the email exchanges he had with Floridians while governor.
The emails cover everything from his drive for tax cuts and education reform in Florida to immigration, his fluency in Spanish and dealing with hurricanes.
Beyond the work issues, there was plenty of the comical, such as when a 9-year-old girl wrote to tell him she did not like her piano lessons because "my teacher smells of dead alligators." She wanted to know if Jeb and brother George had taken piano while growing up.
"Yes, I had piano lessons," Bush emailed her. "It was tough and I didn't enjoy it. In fact, I wasn’t that good at it. But you know what? It gave me discipline which helped me as an adult."
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Eric Walsh and Jonathan Oatis)
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 31, 2015.
Reuters/Brian C. Frank