Jeb Bush was held up by top Republican donors today as one of the party’s best voices to champion immigration reform in the coming presidential election.
Both Mike Fernandez, a major GOP donor in Florida, and Spencer Zwick, who national finance chairman of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, singled out Bush during a conference call this afternoon.
“Certainly Gov. Bush has decided to lead on this issue,” Zwick said, adding any candidate needs to clearly say where they are on the issue and not try to say the “most outrageous thing so that they can make national news.”
“We have to have someone who is willing to take on this issue,” he said. “We have to nominate a candidate who is willing to let action be stronger than inaction. Because as Republicans, we’ve let inaction be our model for too long."
The call was arranged by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a Republican group that has tried to push for reform. At the outset Fernandez talked about his own immigrant story, arriving from Cuba in 1965.
“Had you met me back then you would have seen me cleaning animal cages at a hospital,” the billionaire healthcare CEO said. “I could have easily been confused with one of the 11 million undocumented residents we have in this country today.
He said the booming Hispanic population in the U.S. is a “game changer” and that it would be unwise for Republicans not to embrace the community. “We need to welcome these individuals. These individuals are risk takers. They did not come here for anything else other than improving their lives and we need them in order to improve our economy.”
GOP donors and leaders such as Grover Norquist, who was also on the call, have long called for immigration reform.
But those calls stand against a conservative base that has demanded a hardline position that forced Romney to talk about self deportation and figures such as Sen. Marco Rubio to move off calls for a comprehensive approach.