Jeb Bush suggested on Thursday that he wants to promise African-American voters "hope and aspiration" rather than “free stuff.”
Asked by a white man at a South Carolina event how he planned to reach out to the black community, Bush responded: “Our message is one of hope and aspiration. It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”
The comment, which was first highlighted by the Washington Post, is akin to remarks made by Mitt Romney during his 2012 bid for president.
Romney, who won just six percent of the black vote, was criticized for suggesting in 2012 that he would shun voters interested in “more free stuff.” That remark came after Romney was booed by the crowd at an N.A.A.C.P. event.
“I hope people understand this, your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this, if they want more stuff from government tell them to go vote for the other guy -- more free stuff. But don’t forget nothing is really free,” Romney said.
In a statement, Bush spokesperson Allie Brandenburger noted the former Florida governor's work promoting policies like school choice and economic growth.
"Jeb is running a campaign that will not cede any issue, voter or demographic group because he has a vision for the future that can unite Americans behind restoring people’s ability to rise up and achieve their dreams," she said.
The Democrats are creating attacks where they don’t exist because they know their policies have failed the tens of millions stuck in poverty and they fear Jeb’s positive message of expanding opportunity for everyone. Even in their shameful first attack ad they went as far as to politicize 9/11, proving how far they will go to avoid Jeb, and the issues.
In a separate interview with CNBC released Friday morning and taped on Tuesday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Bush said that Americans are not “inherently racist” but that many are "deeply disaffected right now."
“I don't think people are inherently racist in this country,” he told CNBC’s John Harwood. “In fact, I think that we have a pretty noble tradition of the opposite. But people are deeply disaffected right now. So rather than prey on their angst and fears, I'm taking a risk of trying to appeal to their hopes and dreams. Give them a sense that leadership matters, and that if we fix these things, things are going to get a lot better in this country.”