Bush touts conservative credentials to anti-tax group

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In an impassioned speech to an influential anti-tax group, Jeb Bush ticked through eight years of tax cuts and economic growth during his time as Florida governor, and said it could be done nationally.

To his would-be rivals for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Bush said essentially: Talk is cheap.

"It's easy to talk about it," Bush told more than 200 economic conservatives at the Club for Growth's annual winter meeting at a resort in south Florida. "I hope you believe that you want someone who has the proven leadership skills to make it happen."

Bush, who served as governor from 1999 to 2007, noted that his administration cut taxes each year, totaling $19 billion in reductions. He also told how he fully funded his state's pension program, cut the state government's workforce by more than 13,000 and left the state with 1.3 million more jobs than when he started.

He made the claims as other Republican governors weighing presidential campaigns are dealing with daunting budget challenges.

Bush was scheduled to speak Friday in Washington to the Conservative Political Action Conference, the largest annual meeting of conservative activists, some of whom have grown skeptical of Bush's conservative credentials since he left office eight years ago.

Bush appeared more animated during the speech, unlike two speeches earlier this month on the economy in Detroit and on foreign policy in Chicago. On Thursday, he was interrupted by applause and often smiled and joked with the club's president and event moderator David McIntosh.

"If you apply conservative principles and you stick with it, and you have the leadership skills to bring people toward the cause, you can move the needle on these things," Bush said during and question-and-answer session after his speech. "I reject the notion that we can't solve problems, that the gridlock is too enormous to forge consensus. It requires some creativity to get to a win for everybody."