Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came into the arena at the Tampa Bay Times Forum to a standing ovation.
“Bienvenidos a Florida!” he said.
It was a speech that went off-script right at the beginning.
“Mr. President, it is time to stop blaming your predecessor for your failed economic policies,” Bush said on the closing night of the Republican National Convention. He added that President Barack Obama was “dealt a tough hand,” but needed to take responsibility for his failures at this point in his presidency.
Bush spoke of his brother, President George W. Bush, with admiration, saying he kept the country safe in difficult times.
But then he moved on to the main event. Accompanied by a teacher from Texas and a product of the Florida public education system, Bush spoke of the importance of education, highlighting the need for the United States to catch up to other countries in academic excellence and the need for changes across the nation.
“Education is hard work, but if you follow some core principles, and you challenge the status quo, you get great results,” the former governor said.
While Bush was governor of Florida, he led strong education reform across his state, which included school choice. On Thursday night, the governor called for that reform to be brought to other states.
“Let’s give every parent in America a choice of where their child attends school,” Bush said, in a statement that Republican nominee Mitt Romney echoed later in the night. Bush said that Romney would know that is the right thing to do, given his previous experience as governor of Massachusetts, and would let the states make a decision on the issue.
Over on Twitter, Justin Hamilton, the press secretary for the Department of Education, replied to a question asking if Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was watching Bush’s speech by saying, “We’re working. We don’t have time to watch TV.”
In addition, Bush took the opportunity to point out how well Floridian students are doing at schools, singling out African-American, Latino, low-income and disabled students.
“Right now, Florida’s fourth grade Hispanic students read as well or better than the average of all students in 21 states and the District of Columbia,” said Bush, who is often thought of among Hispanic Republicans as a Latino himself.
And it was a wise thing to bring up, since the GOP desperately needs the Hispanic vote.
Shortly before Bush took the podium, Craig Romney, Mitt’s son, had delivered his remarks in both English and Spanish, in an effort to reach out to the coveted Latino demographic. Craig’s remarks were preceded by a video montage featuring New Mexico Gov. Susana Martínez, Sen. Marco Rubio, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño and other top Republican Latinos, supporting the theme “Juntos con Romney.”