GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush told Republicans Thursday that Democrats are not the enemy and he is focused on fixing a broken Washington.
Outsider rivals Donald Trump and Ben Carson have appealed to voters angry with the federal government. At a Michigan campaign event, the former Florida governor said people should be mad and frustrated but elect a president with "joy in his heart (who) has the proven skills to fix things."
"Democrats are not our enemies," he said at the Kent County GOP in Grand Rapids, criticizing Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's answer in a debate that Republicans are among her enemies. "It's a Washington that's broken. And we need principled, centered leadership to fix it."
Clinton has described her comment as a "little tongue in cheek," saying she has had positive experiences with Republicans while in office but not during campaigns.
Bush, who has lagged in polls, is hoping to be the GOP's mainstream alternative candidate when early voting contests begin next year.
"My approach isn't to focus on necessarily how bad things are — connect and understand that people are angry about it, but offer solutions," he told reporters after the town hall-style stop, in which he answered questions from the crowd of roughly 200 people about veteran health care, police, education policy and ride-hailing service Uber. He focused on boosting the economy and cited his tax plan along with the need to cut red tape, reverse President Barack Obama's opposition to the Keystone pipeline and halt the president's plan to down on carbon emissions from power plants.
Michigan's primary is March 8. The last Republican candidate to win the state was Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in 1988.
Bush missed most of a fundraiser before the campaign stop because he said a tornado hit an airport in Iowa, delaying his flight.
Carson has outraised other GOP contenders in Michigan this year, totaling $477,000 to Bush's $454,000 through September. Carson made up ground in the most recent quarter, bringing in $352,000 while Bush collected $121,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Bush said Thursday's fundraising event, which was hosted by major GOP donor Peter Secchia at a downtown hotel, was successful and followed a "huge" fundraiser last month in the Detroit area.
"We have the resources to run a competitive campaign and we'll continue to have it," he said.
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