Jeb Bush rejects post-debate advice in Tampa speech

Story highlights

  • The former Florida governor is attempting to turn his vulnerabilities into a strength, decidedly vowing to brush off advice to become a more attractive TV personality and promising to run on his record, not rhetoric
  • Speech designed to showcase his record in Florida over less experienced candidates, such as Marco Rubio

Tampa, Florida (CNN)In what's being described as another reset for Jeb Bush's struggling campaign, the former Florida governor is attempting to turn his vulnerabilities into a strength, decidedly vowing to brush off advice to become a more attractive TV personality and promising to run on his record, not rhetoric.

Speaking before an enthusiastic audience of about 400 at a rally here, Bush stepped away from his standard stump speech and delivered a new address — a re-packaged message on why his experience matters.
"The challenges we face as a nation are too great to roll the dice on another presidential experiment," he said. "To trust the rhetoric of reform over a record of reform."
    It was a speech designed to showcase his record in Florida over less experienced candidates.
    "The answer isn't sending someone from one side of the capital city to the other," he said, a not-so-subtle jab at his rivals whose day jobs are in the Senate, like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.
    "The solution won't be found in someone who has never demonstrated the capacity to implement conservative ideas," he continued. "And you can't just tell Congress ... 'You're Fired' ... and go to a commercial break."
    The audience chanted "Jeb!" as he laid out the highlights from his eight years as governor of Florida and made the promise: "Let me tell you something: when the dust clears, and the delegates are counted, we will win this campaign."
    The speech comes less than a week after he delivered a poorly reviewed debate performance that breathed new life into some of his biggest criticisms -- that he's too polite, low energy and awkward on stage.
    In the past few days, Bush has been drawing comparisons to his own style to that of Abraham Lincoln. Richard Corcoran, a former chief of staff when Rubio was Florida House speaker, helped introduce the candidate on Monday and invoked the Lincoln analogy.
    "How different would this country be if a tall, gangly guy who was sometimes awkward wasn't elected in 1860?"
    Bush himself referenced the famous president, who he argued stayed true to his own style.
    "If Lincoln were alive today, imagine the foolishness he would have to suffer. Advisers telling him to shave his beard. Cable pundits telling him to lose the top hat," Bush said. "Opposition researchers calling him a five-time loser before the age of 50."
    "I have gotten a lot of advice lately myself ... more than enough," Bush continued.
    As he has said previously, he's been told to get rid of his glasses. But he also said Monday that people tell him to take off his suit coat and get rid of his purple striped tie.
    "Man, I like that tie," he said to laughs. "It only cost $20."
    Other advice, he argued, is more strategic.
    "Nail that zinger. Be angrier. Hide your inner wonk," he said he was told. "But I have learned two important things from my time serving the people of Florida: One, I can't be someone I'm not. And, two, getting things done isn't about yelling into a camera, or regurgitating sound bites free of substance."