Former Republican Gov. of Florida Jeb Bush says the GOP will attract more African-American voters with "hope and aspiration" rather than "free stuff."
Bush’s remarks came after a white man in the crowd at a South Carolina town hall meeting on Sept. 24 asked him how he planned to appeal to African Americans, reports The New York Times.
“Our message is one of hope and aspiration,” the GOP presidential candidate said. “It isn’t one of division and get in line and we’ll take care of you with free stuff. Our message is one that is uplifting — that says you can achieve earned success.”
Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Bush, later said that the presidential candidate “talks constantly about the need for Republicans to reach all voters.”
She did not address the “free stuff” portion of his remark, though it appears to be a clear dig at the Democratic Party.
“We will never be successful in elections without communicating that conservative principles and conservative policies are the only path to restoring the right to rise for every single American,” Campbell told The Times.
Bush’s campaign added that while the question was aimed specifically at African Americans, his response was meant for all voters.
His remarks are not gaining a positive response on social media from African Americans.
“Unbelievable. What free stuff?…,” Donna Brazile, a political strategist and journalist, tweeted.
“Translation: 'If we just teach the blacks to stop being lazy, they'll vote for us,'” X, a filmmaker in Los Angeles, California, posted to Twitter.
Bush’s remarks are now being compared to ones former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said after he lost the 2012 presidential election to Obama, reports CNN.
Romney blamed his loss on “gifts” Obama gave minority voters.
"What the president, president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote," Romney said in 2012 on a call with donors.
Romney also used the term “free stuff” while campaigning.
“Your friends who like Obamacare, you remind them of this: If they want more stuff from government, tell them to go vote for the other guy — more free stuff," Romney said during a speech at the time. "But don’t forget nothing is really free."
Bush's campaign maintains that he wants to bring people together not divide them as they claim Obama did for political gain.
“[Bush's] focus is on uplifting people, not dividing them,” Campbell said, “and that is a message he will take across America.”