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Bush Hosts Town Hall in Pensacola

Bush 2016


Former Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush spoke to a standing room only crowd at the Pensacola Bay Center Wednesday afternoon.

The doors to the conference room on the Bay Center’s second floor opened at 11:30 a-m, and in ten minutes all 300 or so seats were filled. The rest stood on either side of the room.

In his prepared remarks, Bush touched upon the record-setting 2004-05 hurricane season, when he was governor. Bush did win widespread praise, even among critics, for his handling of the storms. He told the crowd that experience, he believes, qualifies him for the White House.

“We were responding and recovering for eight hurricanes and four tropical storms,” Bush said. “I’ve learned a little about leadership through trial and error, and I’ve got tire marks on my forehead to prove it.”

The conversation turned to current GOP front runner Donald Trump. After initially shying away from taking on the real estate mogul, some of the other GOP candidates – including Jeb Bush – are finding their voice when it comes to Trump’s pet issue, immigration. Bush recently met with officials in the border city of McAllen, Texas.

“The first thing they told me was, ‘You can’t build a wall and solve this problem in our part of the country,’” said Bush. “The terrain is too rugged; you’d have American citizens on the other side of the wall, you couldn’t access the [Rio Grande] river. It’s a simple thing to say, but it’s not practical and it’s not conservative.”

Responding to a heckler in the audience that mentioned the Great Wall of China, Bush said there’s a better way to deal with illegal immigrants.

“Provide more support to local law enforcement, so they can be the eyes and ears of the Border Patrol,” said Bush. “Push the Border Patrol to the border; drone technology, GPS technology. Deal with the 40% of immigrants that come with a legal visa and overstay, by using biometrics.”

The former governor’s prepared remarks ended in a pep talk of sorts, urging supporters to “stop moping around” and realize the frustration is from not reaching full potential.

“I will campaign with heart, I will campaign in places where Republicans haven’t been seen in a good, long while,” Bush said. “Because the only way a conservative wins is campaigning with ‘brazos abiertos’ (open arms) – encouraging people to join our cause.”

Afterward, Steve Larson -- who came to the town hall from Fort Walton Beach, thought Bush did great, but….

“I think he’s still doing a little soft-peddling around the edges on some of the hard questions,” Larson said. “I wish he had been a little more direct on some of the issues from [Donald] Trump and chaos he’s causing. But I think [Bush] did well.”

As for why hold the town hall meeting in a conference room at the Bay Center and not the main arena, the answer could be financial. After raising $120 million for Jeb Bush’s campaign super PAC the first half of this year, Politico.com reports that funding juggernaut could be losing some momentum – leading the campaign to confirm that it is working to control expenses.