CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) — Jeb Bush says he misjudged the intensity of anger among Republican voters before his White House campaign and believes the country in 2016 is "dramatically different" than in past elections.
Yet he insists he's still a viable candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and one who has broadened his mission to include defending conservativism from GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
"I just think it's important to fight this fight," a reflective Bush said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I don't know what the consequences politically for me are. But I do think it's important that the conservative party nominate a conservative, and someone that understands the role of America in the world."
In particular, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to conservative social issues in an AP Conversation, the latest in a series of extended interviews with the candidates to become the next president.
"This is dramatically different, because the country is dramatically different, and people are reflecting their anger and angst in a way that is very different than any time that I can recall," Bush said. "And I've been involved in politics for a long while."
Bush's vow to champion conservative principles to counter Trump's rise came hours before President Barack Obama condemned "voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don't look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background" in his final State of the Union address.
That veiled reference to Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric was echoed by South Carolina's Republican governor, Nikki Haley. In the official Republican response to Obama's speech, she called on voters to tune out "the siren call of the angriest voices."