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Jeb Bush criticizes GOP partisanship, says Mitt Romney needs to ‘change the tone’ on immigration

Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush wouldn’t fit in today’s dogmatic Republican Party, Mitt Romney ought to change his tone on imigration, and even if Romney is elected, the experienced businessman won’t be able improve the job market in the near future.

Those were some of the candid criticisms levied Monday by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who expressed frustration with his own party and its presumptive presidential nominee.

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“Ronald Reagan would have — based on his record of finding accommodation, finding some degree of common ground, similar to my dad — they would have had a hard time if you define the Republican Party — and I don’t — as having an orthodoxy that doesn’t allow for disagreement,” Bush said during a media question-and-answer session in New York, hosted by Bloomberg View. “Back to my dad’s time or Ronald Reagan’s time, they got a lot of stuff done with a lot of bipartisan support that right now would be difficult to imagine happening.”

Bush added that Democrats, too, are overly partisan and said President Obama has failed to display the transcendent leadership he advertised four years ago.

Romney has compared himself to both Republican presidents during the campaign, such as when he explained his changed position on abortion during a debate in December.

“I’ve learned over time, like Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush and others, my experience in life ... has told me that sometimes I was wrong,” Romney said. “Where I was wrong, I’ve tried to correct myself.”

In particular, Romney has worked to cast himself as a small government advocate in the mold of Reagan, a Republican icon.

Bush’s declaration that Reagan would be out of place in the contemporary GOP rankled party members, including Grover Norquist, whose hard-line anti-tax pledge — signed by 274 congressional Republicans — represents the sort of intractability Bush decried.

Norquist called Bush’s assertion about Reagan “foolish” and “bizarre” said today’s GOP “is the Republican Party that Reagan created, that he envisioned.”

On immigration, Bush advised Romney to change his approach.

“Don’t just talk about Hispanics and say immediately we must have controlled borders,” said Bush, who has endorsed Romney and is a member of the candidate’s Hispanic Steering Committee. “It’s kind of insulting when you think about it. Change the tone would be the first thing. Second, on immigration, I think we need to have a broader approach.”

Bush also threw water on Romney’s promise to turn around the economy quickly. A Romney campaign ad released last week said that “from day one as president, Mitt Romney’s strong leadership will make all the difference on jobs.”

“I think we’re in a period here for the next year of pretty slow growth; I don’t see how we get out, notwithstanding who’s president,” Bush said. “We’ve got major headwinds with Europe and a slow down for Asia as well.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.
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