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Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush told Utah supporters Tuesday that he believes Donald Trump, the surprise front-runner in the crowded GOP field, will fade quickly once he is forced to defend his controversial positions and explain some past statements.
"Mr. Trump is a viable candidate. He's the front-runner and I think ultimately he's going to have to be treated like a viable candidate, which means he'll have to be held to account for his views. He can't just make bombastic statements and not back it up," Bush, shirtsleeves rolled up and no jacket, told about 100 people during a fundraising stop in Salt Lake City.
The former Florida governor said Trump is tapping into angst in the party and disillusionment with the political-power structure, but his views on income taxes and health care, in particular, don't fit in with the Republican Party.
"He's not a conservative and in a conservative party, conservatives win," Bush said. "Ultimately he has to explain what his views are and I think that will be his downfall. … I think it will happen over a relatively short period of time, maybe not next week or not next month. We'll have to go through a few debates."
Bush also said that, in order to win, Republicans should try to expand the electoral map and try to win in states like Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan and Pennsylvania. To do that, he said, the party needs to be able to appeal to Latino and African-American voters.
"The idea that African-American voters or Latino voters or Asian-American voters or kids are monolithic thinking and monolithic voting, we have to reject that out of hand," he said. "We have to expand the map and we have to expand the demographics to be successful."
Trump, in particular, has drawn criticism from many in the presidential field for staking out an immigration proposal that includes mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.
"It's not helpful. I think we'll be fine at the end of the day but we need to focus on a more hopeful, optimistic message and that's what I intend to do," Bush said during a brief interview following a fundraiser at the home of John Price, a former U.S. ambassador to the African nation of Mauritius.
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who was the first senator to endorse Bush, said the candidate is fluent in Spanish and willing to address issues important to the Latino demographic.
"In all honesty, this is a guy who is well-respected in the Hispanic community, he's going to go after the Asian community and he's going to go after the black community," Hatch said.
Guests paid $2,700 per person for the reception hosted by Zions Bank President Scott Anderson and developer Steve Price with Bush, with those who raised $10,000 qualifying as co-hosts for the event.
Attendees included many of the state's political powerhouses Hatch, Gov. Gary Herbert, former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller and Josh Romney, son of former Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
"A day doesn't go by I don't wish he was president of the United States, because he would've been an extraordinary president in every way," Bush said of Mitt Romney.
Josh Romney said neither he nor anyone in his family is endorsing a candidate yet.
"The Bushes are family friends, so we came to support Jeb and the Bushes, but the [Romney] family is all staying neutral in the primaries," he said.
Likewise, Huntsman said Bush was a successful governor and serious contender for the nomination, but it's still too early to get behind a candidate.
"We're still in the very early stages of the game. Posturing, theatrics, the entertainment elements of politics are all looming large right now," said Huntsman, who ran a short-lived 2012 presidential campaign.
Like Romney and Huntsman, Bush is from a prominent family. If elected, he would be the third Bush to serve in the White House in two generations. However, he said that while he loves his family and all they've done, he is running for president based on his own ideas and not "to break a tie with the Adams family," a reference to John and John Quincy, a father and son who each served as president.
Bush was in Texas and Colorado on Monday and left Utah to head to Florida for an event. He will be in Alabama on Wednesday. Politico reported Tuesday, however, that the Bush fundraising machine may be struggling to keep up the staggering pace of the first six months of the year when $120 million poured into the candidate's campaign and super PAC (political action committee).