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updated: 8/30/2012 1:47 PM

Jeb Bush slams Republican anti-immigrant stance as loser

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  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush

    Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
    Associated Press


TAMPA, Fla. -- Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said his party's anti-immigration policies are costing Republicans elections and contributing to lower fertility rates and gloom in the U.S.

"The most vociferous anti-immigrant kind of candidates lose," Bush said during a Bloomberg/Washington Post breakfast at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. "They lose in primaries, they lose in general elections. And I'm all about winning."

More than two-thirds of Hispanics voted for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, according to Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center. Mitt Romney, who will accept the Republican presidential nomination, trailed Obama among Hispanics by more than a 2-to-1 margin, according to an Aug. 27 poll from Renton, Washington-based Latino Decisions.

Romney can begin to bridge that gap in his acceptance speech tonight by sharing more of his personal story and beliefs, Bush said. As part of that story, Bush said Romney should discuss how his Mormon faith has shaped his life in positive ways and "speak more from his heart."

"That's been hard for a guy who's been brought up, trained, lived his life in a way of great discipline and reserve," Bush said. "You know, he can't undo 63 years of how you've lived."

Romney has said he favors "self-deportation," the idea behind Alabama and Arizona immigration laws that pressure undocumented workers to leave. The party has adopted a similar platform calling for proposals to "encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily." The platform supports requiring employers to verify workers' legal status and opposes "any form of amnesty" for illegal immigrants.

Bush said a "dark pessimism" coming from Washington over immigration and other issues has led to lower fertility rates in the U.S.

"It's actually impacting fertility rates," Bush said. "We have a lower fertility rate today than France. It's a sign of this pessimism. And the solution is to not view immigrants as a problem."

The average U.S. woman has 1.9 births over her lifetime, according to a November 2011 report from the National Center for Health Statistics. That number has decreased each year since 2007 and in 2010 dropped below the rate it takes for a generation to replace itself.

Bush, 59, served two terms as governor of Florida, leaving office in early 2007. His family has produced the last two Republican presidents: George W. Bush, his brother, and George H.W. Bush, his father.

Both former presidents won election with the help of Florida's electoral votes, which this year will total 29 of the 270 needed. Jeb Bush, who has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate in 2016 should Obama win re-election, forecast a close race in the state this year. Hispanic voters are about 14 percent of Florida's electorate and outnumber black voters in the state's two biggest television markets, Miami and Orlando.

"The demographics of the state are probably trending Democrat, but the voting profile of the state is" Republican, Bush said. "That may change."

Bush criticized Obama for skirting Congress and ordering a plan to exempt from deportation younger illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements. Bush said he supported the policy.

"Having a solution to the fact that we have all of these young people, many of whom are making great contributions, don't have a connection to their parents' former country, yeah, of course I'm for it," Bush said.

Still, Bush criticized Obama for making his deportation announcement in June, a week before Romney spoke to the annual meeting of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

"Let's do this executive order the day before he speaks, and then I'm going to speak the next day, and everybody will applaud me," Bush said of Obama.

Obama spokesman Adam Fetcher said the president has made "significant progress" on immigration policies.

"Mitt Romney and his allies have taken such extreme positions on immigration that Governor Bush has repeatedly criticized them," Fetcher said in an e-mail.

Asked in an interview on Bloomberg Television after the breakfast if the Republican Party runs the risk of becoming the minority party because of the issue, Bush said: "Not just Latinos, but Asians as well."

The growing immigrant community, he said, "will become the dominant factor in politics."

Bush said both parties have a "Groundhog's Day approach" to immigration policy that favors politics instead of policies.

Bush said he was in favor of better control over the nation's borders. "But then get to a different conversation about American greatness that can be sustained over the long haul, if we allow people to come in, embrace our values, fortify them, and bring vitality and energy and an aspirational notion about what it is to be an American," he said.

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