Jeb Bush knows he's an establishment Republican, but he said during Thursday night's GOP debate that he hopes to convince voters he's also the leading conservative presidential candidate.
"Look, I'm in [the] establishment because my dad, the greatest man alive, was president of the United States, and my brother, whom I adore as well, [who] is a fantastic brother, was president as well — fine, I'll take it," Bush said. "And I'm part of the establishment because Barbara Bush is my mom. Fine, I'll take it."
Bush's embrace of his family was just one part of his response to a question that implied he should drop out in order to allow another candidate to unite the establishment wing of the party. He argued, instead, that he has been the chief defender of conservatism against Donald Trump and is capable of prosecuting a successful general election campaign against Hillary Clinton.
"This election is not about our pedigree, this is an election about people who are really hurting," the former Florida governor said. "And we need a leader that will fix things and have a proven record to do it and we need someone who will take on Hillary Clinton in November, someone who has a proven record, who has been tested, who is totally transparent. I released 34 years of tax returns and 300,000 emails from my government record. To get that information from Hillary Clinton, you need to get a subpoena from the FBI."
Trump's outsider status notwithstanding, Bush prefaced that statement by suggesting that his running fight with the reality TV star demonstrates his own conservative bona fides. "Everybody else was in the witness protection program when I went after him on behalf of what the Republican cause should be — conservative principles, believing in limited government, believing in accountability, leading by fixing the things that are broken," Bush said.