Jeb: “Reform Conservatism”

CIB020415-BushDespite that the most recent polls in Iowa show him trailing in the early field of GOP contenders, Jeb Bush’s campaign strategy has yet to focus on either of the first two primary states which will hold votes one year from now.

Instead, the former Florida governor is taking to the streets in Detroit to pitch a new agenda he calls ‘Reform Conservatism’, which is a gamble his advisers believe will establish economic credibility ahead of the growing fight for the nomination.

Today, Bush will address the Detroit Economic Club to unveil the agenda that puts flesh on the bones of the theme set out by his Right to Rise PAC, although aides insist the remarks will not lay out any specific policy proposals. An unnamed Bush insider summed the expected message from Bush:

“There is income inequality in this country and with conservative ideas people can start to do better.”

The theme marks a clear populist departure from past Republican rhetoric, a message that might be more expected from Sen. Elizabeth Warren than from anyone on the GOP side of the divide. However, the key difference lies in the assumed solution: Sen. Warren’s story casts the rich as antagonists suppressing the less fortunate. Conservatism, and hopefully Jeb Bush, sees society as a whole that works together to encourage wealth and stability.

Bush’s calculation is that Detroit represents a microcosm of the numerous working-class, mostly Democrat areas of the country that haven’t been party to the economic recovery of recent years despite repeatedly federal intervention.

Bush’s move may aim to preempt attacks from the left and to lay groundwork clearly in contrast to the missteps in Mitt Romney’s “47%” debacle during 2012 and his argument against federal bailouts which Democrats used successfully to label him as a heartless business manager.