MERRIMACK, N.H. — Jeb Bush questioned Donald Trump’s record as a conservative with his most pointed critique of the businessman to date as the two Republican candidates held dueling campaign events in this critical primary state.
“Mr. Trump doesn’t have a proven conservative record,” Bush said of the billionaire businessman at a town hall meeting Wednesday night as Trump held his own event just three miles away. "He was a Democrat longer in the last decade than he was a Republican," Bush added.
Bush had most recently taken to alluding to Trump during campaign events by referring to “big personalities,” but tonight’s change in rhetoric came in response to an audience member’s question about the former governor’s strategy for winning the Republican nomination in the face of Trump’s recent surge.
“People will vote for a proven conservative leader,” Bush said while touting his own record.
Bush acknowledged his opponent’s talent for taping into voter anger toward Washington and issues like immigration, but discounted his ability to maintain conservative support over time – referencing Trump’s change in policy positions over the past two decades – as proof of his shaking conservative footing.
The governor said he believes voters will eventually gravitate toward a candidate who they know will have “conservative principles” if elected and sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.
“Let’s support someone where you don’t have to guess where he stands,” Bush said.
Tonight’s town hall at a New Hampshire VFW hall was another opportunity for Bush to highlight the veteran centric proposals his campaign debuted earlier this week during a national security focused swing through South Carolina.
“I promise you if I’m elected president of the United States this will be my first priority,” he said of support veterans.
Bush also said people should be ashamed of the state of education – a theme he began in a forum earlier in the day that attracted a half-dozen Republican candidates– calling for robust accountability, high standards and school choice to fix what he called “the national crisis” in education.
Throughout his remarks, the governor emphasized the importance of accountability in almost all aspects of governance and highlighted the priority he’s placed on running what he called “the right kind of campaign.”