HUDSON, N.H. -- Jeb Bush said he would be open to allowing illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and said his position on immigration is “the grown-up plan.”When you describe a position of yours that's unpopular with the voters as "the grown-up choice," what you're saying is that those who disagree with you are children.
The former Florida governor, a vocal supporter of granting legal status to some undocumented immigrants as part of a broader immigration overhaul, offered a robust defense of his immigration policy during a discussion with local business leaders here.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, anything you propose is amnesty,’ but that’s not a plan,” Mr. Bush said during a discussion with local business leaders here. “That’s a sentiment, that’s not a plan. I think the best plan, the most realistic plan, the grown up plan, if you will, is once you control the border and you’re confident it’s not going to be another magnet, is to say, ‘Let’s let these folks achieve earned legal status where they work, where they come out of the shadows.’”
Later, during a brief exchange with reporters, Mr. Bush said he could also be supportive of a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally -- as he did at one time -- but said there currently isn’t sufficient political support for it.
“If you could get a consensus done, where you could have a bill done and it was 15 years [to achieve citizenship] as the Senate Gang of Eight did, I’d be supportive of that,” Mr. Bush said....
I suspect primary voters won't forget that Jeb said this. I also suspect that Jeb will keep saying it. That's the thing about him: He's low-key about it, but he seems to enjoy lecturing people. He's doing it again when he says, “It’s easy to say, 'Well, anything you propose is amnesty,’ but that’s not a plan.” In other words: Well, at least I have a plan. Do you?
I know that, as a rule, Republicans have hot one-night stands with presidential primary firebrands and then go on to marry the Establishment choice. But the Establishment choices who've won the nomination have won in large part because they emphasize hot-button issues on which they're in sync with the voters. A lot of GOP voters distrusted John McCain, but the Bush foreign policy was the big rallying point for Republicans in 2008, and McCain defended that policy passionately and sincerely. In 2012, Obamacare was what GOP voters hated most, and Mitt Romney had even me convinced that he despised it with every fiber of his being.
Jeb's not campaigning this way. He's campaigning as if he wants to force the voters to eat their vegetables. He's campaigning as if forcing voters to eat their vegetables is the reason he wants to run. To some extent, I think that really is the point of his campaign: He thinks the GOP can be the majority party if it will stop being so extreme on certain issues -- or at least on one issue, immigration. But is he going to get through the primaries, even with all his Establishment money, by telling voters that they're misbehaving brats? Maybe, but I have serious doubts.