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Jeb Bush hasn't ruled out 2016 White House run

10:13 AM, Mar 4, 2013   |    comments
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (NBC) -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush won't confirm he's a candidate for the next presidential race, but he sounded like a White House hopeful Monday, declaring his party in need of leadership.

"I have a voice, I want to share my beliefs about how the conservative movement and the Republican party can regain its footing, because we've lost our way," he told TODAY's Matt Lauer.

Bush said he wouldn't rule out a run in 2016, "but I won't declare today either."

Instead, he offered his views on the current fiscal problems facing the White House and Congress, including the deep budget cuts that will be rolled out in numerous federal agencies in upcoming weeks.

Bush called the sequestration a "temporary problem in our history," one the nation appears numb to because of hype raised by President Obama.

"The president kind of led the charge to say that widows and orphans were going to be out on the street, and so when it didn't happen, he actually himself kind of stepped back on Friday and said it wasn't going to happen that way," he said.

Bush said the impact of the sequestration was "oversold" and "people are just numbed by this dysfunction and they watch it with their peripheral vision."

Bush also said recent fiscal problems are hampering progress on immigration reform, an issue he believes could help restore the nation's economic growth. It's also the one of the few areas where both parties have shown considerable compromise.

"This is the one place where cats and dogs seem to be getting along a little more, so I'm optimistic that there could be a consensus about going forward on immigration," said Bush, who addresses the issue in his new book, "Immigration Wars."

Bush faulted both the Republican party and its 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for failing to garner more support from Hispanic voters during the last election cycle.

"Gov. Romney put himself in a box, I think, in the primary by trying to out(-conservative) conservatives, some very good conservative candidates, and never really recovered from it," Bush said.

Immigration may not be the dominant issue for Asian-Amerians, Hispanics and other minorities, Bush added, but Republicans need to recognize that it is important to them.

"It's a gateway. If you set a tone that you don't want people to be part of your team, they don't join," he said.

While Bush supports an immigration policy that would grant legal status to people who enter the country illegally if certain conditions are met, he does not support granting them citizenship.

"There has to be some difference between people who come here legally and illegally. It's just a matter of common sense and a matter of the rule of law," he said. "If we're not going to apply the law fairly and consistently, then we're going to have another wave of illegal immigrants coming into the country."

He also said many people don't want to become citizens.

"They want to come here, they want to work hard, they want to provide for their families. Some will want to come home, not necessarily all of them want to stay as citizens," he said.

Bush will appear next week at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC). One person who won't be joining him on the speaker roster is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was criticized by conservatives after he effusively praised President Obama for helping his state after Hurricane Sandy.

But Bush said conservatives were probably more put off by the way Christie handled budget issues unrelated to Sandy aid.

"I love Christie," Bush said of his possible rival for the 2016 presidential race. "I think Gov. Christie is a part of the future of the Republican party for sure, and whether he's going to C-PAC or not is not really changing that."

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