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Jeb Bush Delivers Big Speech In Detroit


Jeb Bush is still not officially in the race for the 2016 Republican nomination though it would've been hard to tell yesterday in Detroit. He gave a big speech there where he seemed very much a candidate, road-testing a message that will be the centerpiece of a bid for the White House. And non-candidate Jeb Bush touched on the fact that both his father and brother were presidents. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Detroit.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Jeb Bush is seen as the establishment candidate in the potential GOP field. And yesterday, he spoke to an organization that proudly wears its own establishment credentials - the Detroit Economic Club. Bush described Detroit as a great city in the midst of revival after a financial crisis and bankruptcy. There's still much work to be done, he told the lunchtime crowd of more than 600. He spoke of what he called the empowerment gap, not just in Detroit but across the whole country. The economic recovery has been too slow, Bush said, and too many people aren't feeling it.


JEB BUSH: Something is holding them back - not a lack of ambition, not a lack of hope, not because they're lazy or see themselves as victims - something else. Something is an artificial weight on their shoulders.

GONYEA: As much as anything, choosing the city of Detroit for his first big speech signals that a Bush campaign would attempt to speak to voters beyond the GOP base. He started with prepared remarks just over 20 minutes long. He used a teleprompter and seemed a bit rusty. He was more comfortable in a Q and A session that followed. Audience members wrote questions on index cards and passed them to the moderator. One question began, your last name is Bush. He replied, so I've been told. Then...


UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: What impact does having a father and a brother who have served as president weigh on your decision to potentially run?

GONYEA: Bush called it an interesting challenge.


BUSH: I love my dad. In fact, my dad is the greatest man alive. And I love my brother. And I think he's been a great president. It doesn't bother me a bit to be proud of them and love them. But I know for a fact that if I'm going to be successful going beyond the consideration, then I'm going to have to do it on my own.

GONYEA: Then there was this on what has become the issue of the week in these early, early stages of the 2016 contest - vaccinations. Here's the question Jeb Bush got in Detroit. Again, the first voice is the moderator.


UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Vaccinations are in the news. A few potential presidential candidates have stumbled on that issue this week. What's your opinion on vaccinations?

BUSH: Parents ought to make sure their children are vaccinated.


GONYEA: Bush then added for emphasis...


BUSH: Parents have a responsibility to make sure their children are protected, over-and-out.

GONYEA: Bush's remarks also included criticism of President Obama's foreign and national security policy. He also stressed, though, that confronting problems globally does not always mean U.S. troops and boots on the ground, perhaps putting some distance between himself and his brother George W. He also again called for fixing the immigration system, briefly laying a position that vocal elements in the Republican Party have been critical of. In the room, the speech was well received. Kathy Vosburg is a county commissioner in nearby Macomb County.

KATHY VOSBURG: What impressed me most was that he has a plan. He knows what's going on in the country and in the world. I think he'd be a great leader.

GONYEA: Also here was Michigan Attorney General Bill Scheutte, in the past a backer of Mitt Romney. He's not yet endorsed anyone this time though he praised Jeb Bush as a very practical choice.

BILL SCHEUTTE: We need a strong candidate against Hillary Clinton. And make no doubt about it - she's formidable. We need to make sure that from the Republican standpoint that we have the strongest candidate to take back the White House.

GONYEA: Jeb Bush has a series of speeches like this planned in the coming weeks, all before making the final decision on a candidacy that everyone assumes is coming. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.

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