GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush lumped together Donald Trump and President Barack Obama Monday while lamenting that some Republicans prey on others' fears and angst.
"Whether it's Donald Trump or Barack Obama, their rhetoric of divisiveness is wrong," Bush said in Council Bluffs, Iowa, according to a statement issued by his campaign Tuesday.
In his comments, Bush said "on our side, there are people that prey on people's fears and their angst as well.
"I don't know about you, but I think it is wrong. I believe we need to unify our country. We need to stop tearing, separating ourselves by race and ethnicity and income. We need to focus on what ties us together," he said.
Bush added that a Republican "can win, and will win, if we have an aspirational message that gives people hope that their lives will be better when we apply conservative principles the right way."
The White House declined comment on what Bush said.
But the Democratic Party responded.
"That Bush is willing to equate Trump to Obama, the most consequential president of my lifetime, is disgusting. How can we take anything Bush has to say seriously when he says hogwash like this," said Pablo Manriquez, a Democratic Party spokesman.
Businesses have severed ties and ended deals with Trump in response to outcry over his comments that Mexico is sending Mexicans across the border to the U.S. who are rapists, criminals and drug runners. He extended his comments to include other Latin Americans.
Critics have reminded him that his employees, including workers building his luxury hotel in Washington, D.C., are immigrants, many who have no criminal record.
Trump was asked to tone down his statements by the GOP, but he has ignored that request.
Republican candidates, particularly Bush whose wife emigrated from Mexico, and the GOP were under fire for failing to immediately denounce Trump's comments. Some of the 15 GOP candidates, such as Bush, have recently begun to do so. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has said he's proud to stand with Trump.
A USA Today/Suffolk University poll out Tuesday showed Trump leading the GOP field with 17 percent, followed by Bush with 14 percent.