POLITICS

Eyeing 2016, Jeb Bush urges GOP to court Latinos as he's set to release thousands of new emails

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club February 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush speaks at the Detroit Economic Club February 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan.  (2015 Getty Images)

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he's focused on a possible 2016 presidential run, and that his family, including his wife, Columba, is totally supportive of it.

In a conference call Monday with supporters, Bush, a Republican, said he planned to release on Tuesday thousands of e-mail and the first chapter of an e-book he thinks will highlight his compassionate leadership style and deep conservative credentials.

Bush stressed the importance of a better GOP relationship with Latinos, and called on his allies to reach out to this electorate and other groups critical to the GOP's 2016 prospects.

"Because our message was maybe too harsh or our harsher voices are the ones that seem to have dominated, we've lost a little ground," he said. "But the fact that I'm bilingual, bicultural can't hurt."

Bush's wife Columba is from Mexico. He is fluent in Spanish, and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Texas in Latin American studies.

The Republican said the Monday morning conference call that he would release the materials on a new website. While many news outlets previously obtained the emails from Bush's time in office, the former two-term governor suggested his interaction with constituents and staff would help shape his message in a prospective presidential campaign.

"One of things that came out of this was a sense there is a story to be told here," Bush said, describing "a style of leadership that tried to help people" and an ideological consistency "where I think we stayed true to conservative perspective."

The Associated Press was provided dial-in details and listened to the call that was intended for former staff and high-level supporters from his previous campaigns.

Bush has yet to announce his political intentions, but he has been among the most aggressive GOP presidential prospects in recent weeks. He continues to court top political donors across the country, while reviving and expanding a political machine that was largely dormant in the eight years since he left the Florida governor's mansion.

He recently launched the "Right to Rise" political action committee to serve as a vehicle for a potential campaign.

"My personal belief is that Republicans can win if we're more hopeful and aspirational, which is why we've used the terminology 'Right to Rise,'" Bush said on the call. "We lost the sense that it's possible that the future can be brighter for people."

The son and brother of former presidents cited the support from his family as he eyes the 2016 campaign.

"Thanks to the support that I have from my beloved wife and family, my life is totally focused on this," he said.

The 20-minute call touched on a range of political strategy and policy.

The discussion seemed aimed at delivering two messages to the network of staff now working at high levels around the country: To advise them of the website and e-book as a way of helping build a database of followers, and to allow Bush to outline the early blueprint for his campaign priorities.

Bush, who unveiled in Detroit last week themes of what would be an economic platform, hinted at what would be his diplomatic and national security priorities, which he plans to outline in a speech in Chicago next week.

He said his top spending priority would be to "protect our shores," and would promote U.S. power as "a force of good not bad." He made no reference to Iraq, where his brother, former President George W. Bush, was criticized for waging an unpopular war.

But he argued the U.S. economic strength was also tied to its strength around the world.

"I think the political argument is that we have to lead, that it's in our interest to lead, that if we focus on growing the economy where incomes begin to rise and we re-engage with the world, that there's going to be better prospects for Americans," Bush said. "And so you have to make it about the broad number of people that feel fatigued about our presence in the world."

Bush said he would call for an increase in defense funding "and defend vigorously the counterintelligence efforts that have protected the homeland."

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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