Speculation that a late challenger might still emerge in the increasingly bitter race for the Republican presidential nomination is set to surge after former Florida governor Jeb Bush made remarks criticizing the current field.
Bush, who is the brother of former US president George W. Bush and son of former president George H.W. Bush is a beloved figure among many conservatives who see him as a strong and charismatic leader who is popular in the must-win swing state of Florida.
That contrasts with a widespread unease among many Republican leaders and grassroots activists with the remaining crop of Republican candidates and the vitriolic nature of the fight between frontrunner and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and his main challengers, former senator Rick Santorum and former US House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich.
In answers to questions from the audience after a speech in Dallas on Thursday, Jeb Bush warned the remaining Republican campaigns about the danger of drifting so far to the right that they put off the key independent voters needed to beat US President Barack Obama in November.
“I think it is important for the candidates to recognize though they have to appeal to primary voters and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition,” Jeb Bush told the audience according to CBS News.
He also directly took on the strident tone of recent Republican debates, accusing participants of scare-mongering.
“I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it is a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are,” he said according to Fox News.
With Romney failing so far to secure the nomination, but with no convincing challenger emerging to unseat him, many Republican pundits have speculated about the possibility that none of the current field will be able to amass enough support to secure the nomination in August in Tampa.
Romney has had his own awkward moments throughout the primary season. His campaign produced a couple more on Friday during his speech before the Detroit Economic Club at Ford Field, the 65,000-seat home of the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.
Romney, a former private equity executive who has taken some criticism in Michigan because he opposed a US$81 billion federal bailout widely credited with helping save the auto industry, emphasized his Michigan roots and love for the cars produced by the state’s auto industry.
He pointed out that he drives a Ford Mustang and Chevrolet pickup truck and that his wife, Ann “drives two Cadillacs, actually” — a comment that analysts said could alienate some blue-collar voters by reminding them of Romney’s vast wealth.
Though that is still unlikely, and Romney remains favorite to win the contest, it has led to a slew of names being mentioned as possible “white knights” who could still enter the race or emerge at Tampa as a compromise candidate to unite a splintered party. They include Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan.
Although none of these figures have expressed any intention to run, and several have repeatedly denied it, Jeb Bush’s comments are likely to set the rumor mill spinning furiously.