IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Jeb Bush Vows to Fight Through Campaign's 'Bumpy Time'

In an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press," Jeb Bush acknowledged his campaign's problems but pledged to fight on and get better at debating.
Get more newsLiveon

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush remained steadfast in his quest for the White House despite a poor debate performance and a week of dismal headlines for his troubled campaign during an exclusive interview with Chuck Todd for "Meet the Press."

"I have enough self-awareness to know that this is the bumpy time of a campaign,” he said. "This is the process. I totally understand it, and I'm more than prepared to fight on."

That fight comes after Bush’s campaign slashed its budget and eliminated staff as part of a major realignment just before last week’s debate where the candidate struggled to gain traction — further unnerving already anxious donors — and putting his own viability in the national spotlight.

"I know that I got to get better at doing the debate," Bush said. "I mean, when I see that I'm not doing something well then I reset and I get better."

Part of the campaign's reset strategy emerged from a huddle in Houston last weekend with advisers and donors. A leaked memo from that event showed a strong focus on Bush’s rival for the Republican nomination Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Bush said he did not leak the memo.

"I didn’t see it," Bush said of the memo that in part referred to Rubio as a "GOP Obama." Despite that, the governor said comparing and contrasting candidates is part of the process, but that he wants the basis of his campaign to be on fixing problems.

Bush has repeatedly questioned Rubio’s record and criticizes the senator frequently for missing votes in Washington to spend time campaigning. Other attacks on the campaign trail focus on the likes of Donald Trump who favors a bombastic style.

"We have a lot of candidates that I think the easy out is to say, you know, 'Follow me because I'm angry too,'" he said. "That's not going to win the general election."

A persistent critique of Bush’s candidacy, in part perpetuated by Trump and again reinforced during the debate, has focused on the candidate’s energy for the race and a reluctance to fight back. He insisted that’s not a reality of the campaign trail but is more a symptom of media coverage.

“I've just got to be able to break through the clutter of all the punditry class, and I think I can do that,” he said of the prevailing conventional wisdom.

Bush faced additional criticism last week for a comment in South Carolina where he said he had plenty of other things to do rather than the current state of politics. He said those remarks were taken out of context and were more about political gridlock than the state of the race.

"Don't vote for me if you think that I'm going to be part of that system and because I'm president I'll think that's a really cool thing," he clarified to Chuck. "That's not what this is about."

For his own message, Bush will attempt to reintroduce his platform during a speech Monday in Tampa in connection with the release of an eBook based on emails with constituents during his time as governor. He told Chuck the speech will layout his brand of conservatism based on positivity and what he calls "a right to rise."

"We need to be hopeful and optimistic, have an aspirational message," he said. "I don't think conservatives are going to win the presidency unless we campaign with our arms wide open.”

Bush will then take his "Jeb Can Fix It" tour to South Carolina and New Hampshire just as his campaign has doubled down on its Granite State effort.

"We're totally committed to a national campaign, but February's going to matter," he said alluding to the importance of the early voting in New Hampshire.

The perception that he lacks a fire for his own candidacy is a misnomer for the former governor who told Chuck he has a totally different impression during events on the campaign trail.

"When I have these events where you're one on one, where you're listening to people, talking to people, town hall meetings that are growing in New Hampshire, I feel pretty good about where we are," he said.

Part of Bush’s struggle rests in the hands of a changed electorate more attracted to outside candidates like front runners Trump and Ben Carson than Bush’s lane in the party establishment.

"Our country has moved away from us, and we need to get back our country," Bush said of the party. "We need to win."

That disconnect is of special concern to Bush’s father who has reportedly been angered by the rise of his son’s rivals.

"My contribution to my dad's life is that he's gotten fired up again," he said of the former president’s reunited political interest. "He's not watching CSI, he's watching the shows, as Donald Trump calls them."