Jeb Bush CPAC: Is He Backtracking On Immigration Reform?

Speaking to Matt Lauer of the Today Show March 4th, Jeb Bush said he won’t rule out a run in 2016. Jeb Bush is also scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this month. His speech marks his first appearance before the influential conference. 

Jeb Bush is the former governor of Florida, and was a critic of both Mitt Romney and the Republican party on immigration. Jeb Bush has been a staunch supporter of immigration reform ... or at least he seemed to be until a few days ago. On the Today show he stated that any pathway to citizenship would violate the rule of law. 

In an interview on Morning Joe Jeb Bush discussed further his upcoming books stance on immigration.

"If you don’t have a difference between a path to citizenship or a path to legalization, you’re going to create a magnet going forward for more illegal immigrants."

Essentially, his sentiments echoed Mitt Romney’s position on immigration during the campaign the very one that Jeb Bush was so critical of. 

"Where the hell was this Jeb Bush during the campaign?" asked a former Romney advisor. 

The advisor adds: "He spent all this time criticizing Romney and it turns out he has basically the same position. So he wants people to go back to their country and apply for citizenship? Well, that’s self deportation. We got creamed for talking about that. And now Jeb is saying the same thing."

Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio appear to have switched positions with one another. A few months ago, Rubio was the one who opposed a pathway to citizenship while Bush favored it. In June 2012, 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."

He echoed those statements in his op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal

So what changed? Perhaps his desire to run for office in 2016.

His stance, however, damages those individuals seeking to move immigration reform forward. The bipartisan "Gang of Eight" endorses a pathway to citizenship. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) a member of the Gang of Eight was troubled by Bush’s statements. On Tuesday, Graham said:

"I just think this proposal caught me off guard and it undercuts what we’re trying to do. I mean I can assure you the Hispanic community has always assumed that for the trade offs I’m seeking there will be a pathway to citizenship."

If Bush does want to run in 2016, these kinds of statements won’t help him. The Republican party is still reeling from its loss of the 2012 election. The loss was in large part due to their hard-line stance on immigration.

In just about one weeks time, Jeb Bush has almost completed almost all of the perquisites for running for President.

Be the governor of a swing state: Check.

Publish a book about an important political issue: Check.

Be invited to speak at the influential CPAC: Check.

Court the media: Check.

Bush’s CPAC speech will give us further insight into the former Republican governors desires. It will be interesting to watch as he attempts to differentiate himself from Republican darling and fellow Floridian Marco "Republican Savior" Rubio.