Jeb Bush gave an impassioned endorsement of fellow Floridian Marco Rubio, advising Mitt Romney to pick him as his running mate and describing him as "the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today," and even spoke of the "great pride" he has for the U.S. senator from his home state.
"Marco Rubio is my favorite [choice], because we have a close relationship," the former Florida governor told Charlie Rose in an interview that aired on his PBS show Thursday evening. "I admire him greatly … He speaks with great passion about American exceptionalism. I think he would lift the spirits of the campaign and provide some energy. Governor Romney is running a very good campaign right now and closed the gap and leading in some polls, but I think this would be an added bonus."
In the wide ranging hour long interview that aired in parts Thursday morning on CBS' "This Morning" and then in its entirety Thursday evening on PBS, Bush said Rubio has had enough preparation to be "one heartbeat away from the presidency" despite being a first term senator.
"Look he has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran," Bush said. "And the practical experience - he's certainly got the intelligent acumen and fortitude to be a good president and I have a special place in my heart for him. It's hard to describe the pride I have for his incredible success and how he has moved in to the job of being a U.S. senator with humility, not trying to be an arrogant guy, to learn the trade if you will. And people in Washington really admire him."
Despite his lengthy and passionate backing of Rubio, Bush said there are "other great candidates as well."
"[Ohio Sen. Rob] Portman, [Virginia Gov. Bob] McDonnell, [New Jersey Gov. Chris] Christie, [Wisconsin U.S. Rep.] Paul Ryan I think would be extraordinary so there's a wealth of talent out there for sure," Bush told Rose. He added later in the interview that he "absolutely" supports Ryan's controversial budget plan.
Bush said "under no circumstances" would he be on the GOP ticket himself. This is not the first time Bush has stressed that the presumptive GOP nominee should pick his friend Rubio over himself.
In an interview with Newsmax in April where he first opened the door to considering joining Romney's ticket, something he has denounced consistently since then, he said Rubio was "probably the best choice" to be Romney's running mate.
He did leave a door open to a future White House run for himself saying he has "not made that decision" yet whether he wants to run for president during another cycle. He said now was "probably my time" to run, but he doesn't "fret" that he made the decision not to.
"I've got personal reasons, family reasons that overwhelm other considerations and I don't know maybe it's a Bush trait, maybe it isn't, but I made the decision and I made the decision and I moved on. I had the chance to be governor for eight years and I took a year to transition out and a year to transition in, so that's a decade of my life where I pursued my own ambitions and I thought it was time to rearrange my life to focus on other things," Bush said. "It's just not in the cards for me at this time. I don't fret about this. I have a blessed life in so many ways."
Bush, the brother of one president and the son of another, said there was "no conversation" in their house about political ambition and who would be the brother to run for the White House. He acknowledged it "may sound impossible to believe."
"There was never, ever a conversation at least that I can remember about George running or me running. It's just not what we talk about," Bush said, adding his family is more likely to chat about "sports and fishing" than political ambition.
He spoke openly about both his father and brother during the interview and even brought up the "amateur psychology" outside observers would mention when talking about their relationship, calling it "stupid" and "dumb to make speculations on something you know nothing about."
"It's a complex relationship when your dad happened to be president and you are president and then you have all the amateur psychology that goes on when people try to speculate about motivations," Bush said. He added later in the interview he has two sons that are interested in politics and joked they are "two Republicans that share my views generally."
Jeb Bush is an active education reformer and advocate, but he's also consistently discussed the issue of immigration in this country and in the interview he called it "something really unique to America," and also clearly separated himself from the presumptive GOP nominee on the issue of illegal immigrants already in the United States.
"It's the one thing that separates us from the rest of the world is to say embrace our values, learn our language and work hard and dream big and create what you want to create because it helps all of us," Bush said. "You have to deal with this issue, you can't ignore it and so either a path to citizenship which I would support and that does put me probably out of the mainstream of most conservatives or … a path to residency of some kind."
Bush said there needs to be a "realistic way of dealing with people that are here illegally," and although he "may have a different point of view on that [from Romney], I think I probably do," he "respect(s) his views."
He also accused the president's re-election campaign of not doing more on the immigration issue because it is "a great political wedge issue."
On the issue of same sex marriage, Bush said he agrees with the president that it should be an issue for states to decide, but he said he doesn't "think in the political situation we are in today that this should be a driving issue."
"I really think that elected officials should be focused on how you create sustained economic growth, how do you create jobs and all of these issues that made people - segments of our society believe are really important are diversions politically," Bush said, blaming the president and his campaign for creating these diversions.
He said he does not personally support same sex marriage and that "traditional marriage is what should be sanctioned," but "not at the expense of discriminating other forms of family structure."
Bush was clear where his beliefs lie on the issue, but stressed that a "wholesome, loving family life ought to be kind of the organizing principal of a free society," and acknowledged those families may all look a little different, revealing an openness not always seen in the Republican Party.
"I don't think people need to be discriminated against because they don't share my belief on this and if people love their children with all their heart and soul and that's what they do and that's how they organize their life that should be held up as examples for others to follow because we need it," Bush said. "We desperately need it and that can take all sorts of forms, it doesn't have to take the one that I think should be sanctioned under the law."