In a departure from the tone of much of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Jeb Bush stuck to his more moderate Republican guns Friday afternoon.
During an interview with conservative talk show host Sean Hannity, Bush reiterated his belief in immigration reform, saying that his plan "also includes a path to legal status."
Fox News' Hannity attacked this policy fissure with the conservative base, pointing to Bush's stances on immigration and education reforms as the two major areas of disagreement.
"I know there's disagreement here," Bush said, acknowledging boos that came from the right wing crowd. "I feel your pain. I was in MIami this morning, it was 70 degrees."
"But there is no plan to deport 11 million people," Bush continued. "We should give them a path for legal status where they work, they don't get government benefits, where they learn English."
And though he prioritized security along the nation's border, he believed the GOP could also broker an agreement on other reform possibilities.
"Let's do it. Let's control the border," Bush said. "There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing that holds back the Republicans from putting a comprehensive plan in place to do it."
He further defended positions he took on other controversial immigration measures while he was the top executive of Florida, including in-state tuition and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.
Bush further said he believed that the Republican Party can appeal to minority voters that have historically drifted towards the Democratic side of the ballot.
"We will be able to get Latinos, young people, and others that you need to win," Bush stated.
But when it came to Hannity's yes-or-no questions, the Florida governor avoided staking out clear policy positions.
"I think Congress ought to pass a bill that does not allow [the president] to use that authority," Bush said, dodging a specific question on whether the current DHS funding spat should continue. "The simple fact is that the president has gone way beyond his constitutional powers to do this."
"I'm not an expert on the ways of Washington," Bush added and fell just short of saying if he would defund the agency over immigration.
And on the political ticking bomb of Common Core, Bush answered that "Common is not a federal takeover."
"What we should say in the reauthorization of the K-12 law is that the federal government has no role in the curriculum," Bush said.
The political rift has grown so wide between the moderate Republican and the rest of the conservative base that some CPAC members planned a "walkout" of Bush. About a few dozen protesters, many of them wearing Rand Paul shirts, left at the beginning of Bush's segment, following a "Don't Tread on Me" flag.
In a closing "lightning"-style round of questions, Hannity asked the younger Bush what type of conservative he considered himself to be.
His answer only proved the point: "A practicing reform-minded conservative," Bush said.
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