Jeb Bush pauses during a commercial break at the CNBC GOP debate in Boulder, Colo., on Oct. 28. (Photo: Rick Wilking/Reuters)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush says he knows he needs to improve his lackluster performance in the debates if he’s going to have a chance at the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
“I know that I got to get better at doing the debate,” Bush said in an interview that aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I’m a grinder. I mean, when I see that I’m not doing something well then I reset and I get better.”
Bush addressed the awkward exchange he had with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio during last week’s primetime CNBC debate in which he criticized Rubio’s voting record but was quickly rebuffed by the junior senator.
“Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you,” Rubio told Bush.
“Well, I got cut off,” Bush explained Sunday. “I literally got cut off by all three of [the moderators] saying, ‘Next question, next question.’ The basic point with Marco isn’t that he’s not a good person or he’s not a gifted politician; everybody can see that. It’s that I have proven leadership skills.”
“I got to be governor of a state and accomplish big things,” Bush continued. “And in this era of gridlock, it’s really hard to break through, and I think he’s given up. And I think that’s the wrong thing to do. This is about public service, about solving problems. If you look at the three people on the stage from the United States Senate, all three of them have a combined two bills that became law that they’ve sponsored. If you look at Hillary Clinton, in 10 years, three bills she sponsored that became law. This is the gridlock that I’m running to try to break up. I can change the culture in Washington.”
Bush also criticized the CNBC moderators for questions that seemed designed to solicit sound bites.
“Whatever it’s called, it’s certainly not debating, because I can complete a sentence in the English language pretty well, and I have ideas that will lift people up,” the former governor said. “So if someone asks me about fantasy football next time — which was kind of bizarre if you think about it — I’ll talk about the people I’ve met that are really worried that they have declining income. They’re worried about their children having more opportunities.”
Bush added, “I’m going to change the conversation on my terms.”
He may have to change it sooner rather than later.
According to a CBS News/New York Times national poll released before the last GOP debate, Bush is tied for fifth place in the race for the Republican nomination, with just 7 percent of GOP voters supporting his candidacy. Rubio, at 8 percent, is in third behind frontrunners Ben Carson (26 percent) and Donald Trump (22 percent).
Bush, though, dismissed the notion that his struggling campaign is on life support.
“If they followed me on the campaign trail, like last week in New Hampshire where we had 300 people totally connected, totally believing in me, I think they would see a different candidate,” he said. “I’ve just got to be able to break through the clutter of all the punditry class, and I think I can do that.”