According to two sources who attended the private event in Greenwich, Connecticut, Bush emphasized that he's aiming to spread his message to nontraditional GOP voters and ticked through his positions on immigration, education and foreign policy.
Both sources asked not to be named to speak more freely about the event.
Noting he had recently stepped down from his board memberships
, Bush humorously said he was "unemployed" for the first time in his adult life, drawing laughs from the audience. The attendees, both Bush supporters, described the former governor as relaxed, comfortable and personable.
He didn't mention Hillary Clinton by name, but Bush alluded to the former secretary of state and potential Democratic presidential frontrunner while offering criticism of the Obama administration's foreign policy.
Hearst Connecticut Media Group
first reported the criticism about Clinton, as well as other details from the fundraiser.
"He made reference to the fact that one of the candidates who looks like they're going to run has a four-year track record of being part of that failed foreign policy," one source told CNN.
More broadly, Bush said that President Barack Obama has weakened the United States on the international stage due to inconsistent policies and a lack of willingness to back up promises with action, the attendees said.
"He was very critical of the point of view that disengagement could make America safer," one source said, adding that Bush spoke of "the importance of American leadership."
He argued that the threat of terrorism is not just a concern at home but abroad, citing Wednesday's shootings in Paris
as an example.
During a question-and-answer session, Bush was asked about concerns that he'd be compared to his father and brother. Both sources confirmed Bush said he should be judged based on his own record as governor and that he's his own person.
for his leadership PAC, Right to Rise, says that Bush won't "cede an inch of territory" on any demographic group or voters, suggesting that he's seeking to bring his message to a diverse set of people.
Both sources said that at the fundraiser Bush focused on how he's not only multilingual but also multi-cultural. He mentioned his wife, Columba, who's from Mexico, and how one of his daughters-in-law is of Iraqi descent, referring to Sandra Algudady, a native Canadian of Iraqi descent who married his son, Jeb Bush, Jr.
On immigration, Bush argued that diversity is a strength and that immigrants have had a vital role in building the country through businesses and hard work.
"He said their overall enthusiasm is great and we need to work on celebrating people who come to America rather than having it be a discussion focused around negative elements," a source said. "He talked about it quite a bit, not at all reluctantly."
He touted his record as governor -- especially on jobs and education -- and his business experience, saying he's someone who's not only cashed paychecks, but issued paychecks.
Both commented on the "excited" and "warm" reception that Bush received at the crowded event.
"He did an excellent job, and he received a very warm welcome on a very cold night," said David Walker, who also attended the fundraiser and served as U.S. comptroller general under both Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.