by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Eliana Johnson of National Review Online explores recent comments from Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush that signal a more conservative line on taxes and spending.
“I think he’s attempting to do two things at once: He wants to be seen as kind of the adult in the room who’s operating in shades of gray and is a real leader as opposed to Donald Trump,” says a top Republican strategist. “But at the same time I think he knows that he needs to make himself more attractive to conservatives.”
Bush may have begun that quest. In a question-and-answer session at the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce summer conference on Saturday, where Bush addressed about 450 top Republican donors, he told Politico’s Mike Allen that he would not strike a deal that raised taxes in exchange for spending cuts. Three years ago, as the government approached the so-called fiscal cliff, congressional Democrats offered Republicans just that deal. At that time, Bush said he supported the notion of trading spending cuts for tax increases.
“If you could bring to me a majority of people to say that we’re going to have $10 in spending cuts for $1 of revenue enhancement — put me in, coach,” Bush told a group of bipartisan lawmakers. That was also in the midst of the 2012 presidential election, when the proposal was roundly rejected by all of the Republican presidential candidates. Bush said his embrace of the compromise measure would prove “I’m not running for anything.”
A spokesman for Bush, Tim Miller, declined to address the governor’s apparent change of heart but says that his record on taxes is “unimpeachable.” He points to Bush’s two terms as governor of Florida, where he cut taxes every year, and says that as president, Bush would push for “pro-growth tax reform that lowers rates.”