Mitt Romney may have encountered a tough crowd addressing a group of Latinos Thursday, but former Florida Governor Jeb Bush transitioned easily from Spanish to English and drew loud applause on the issue of education reform and school choice - and complimented the presumptive Republican nominee's rival, President Obama.
At the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials or NALEO in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Bush began by giving Romney a nod.
"We heard an excellent speech, I thought, from Mitt Romney, who is a supporter of education reform and of school choice," Bush said.
However, in his next breath he aligned himself with Romney's rival and repeated what has gained him headlines over the last few weeks, but he deeply believes in: Working across party lines works as well as having a more open debate.
"I am proud of the fact that as a former governor I was asked by [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan to introduce our current president of the United States in a high school in Miami because we share common ground," Bush said to cheers from the crowd. "And I don't know about you, but when we find common ground we shouldn't fight anymore, we should move on and build on that success. Apparently one can get in trouble when they say these kinds of things, but I happen to believe it's the American way. There is enough to fight about … to me it's important that we begin to focus on how do we build capacity for the next generation to maintain the greatness of our country."
In an interview with CBS News earlier this month, Bush was open about the direction of the Republican Party, saying he worries that it's "shortsighted" when it comes to opening the party to Hispanics.
"In terms of the tone of the debate, it sends a signal," Bush told Charlie Rose. "'We want your support but you really can't join our team.' … Hispanic voters are going to be important in this election but going forward even more so. Politically, I think it's short sighted. I think there needs to be a lot more intense efforts to recognize the demographics of the country are changing and … how we message our views need to change as well."
Bush has wholeheartedly endorsed Romney's candidacy, but he has also argued that Republicans need to work harder to bring Latinos into their party. Romney has struggled to articulate a clear position on President Obama's decision last week not to deport most children of illegal immigrants.
During the presumptive GOP nominee's speech today he said he would replace the president's executive order with his own plan, which includes giving a pathway to citizenship to those immigrants serving in the military or who have pursued advanced degrees. But he did not go into detail.
Bush has criticized Obama for not doing enough to work toward immigration reform during his first term, but he has consistently praised Duncan and found some agreement with the president on education reform.
Today, Bush said Americans have a moral imperative to give students from all walks of life the best possible education in order to improve society, which is where he believes school choice comes in.
"The expansion of choices in states has made public education more vital, more robust," Bush said. "It has created a more competitive atmosphere and parents being empowered are much more engaged in their students learning. And for those who say you're taking money away from public schools because you are offering choices, there is not a single school choice program, public or private who spends more than what the per student allocation is in any jurisdiction in this country."
Getting laughs from the audience he said choice, as in school choice, "is as American as apple pie or as American as tacos al carbon." To the uninitiated, that's beef marinated and grilled and served up in a taco. It's a specialty of northern Mexico - and now, many restaurants in South Florida and beyond.