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Jeb Bush visits Michigan to back state GOP

Gary Heinlein
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday during Michigan campaign stops the election is “huge,” Rick Snyder “is a spectacular governor” and U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land “will be part of a new (GOP U.S. Senate) majority that will get back to getting things done.”

Bush, brother of ex-President George W. Bush, was in Michigan to stump for Snyder’s re-election, Land’s race against Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and other GOP candidates. He swung through Grand Rapids and Lansing en route to a Snyder fundraiser in Troy.

The “American dream” is “challenged by policies that are making it harder for people to rise up” under Democratic President Barack Obama and a Democratic U.S. Senate majority, he said at his appearance in the Republican Party’s Lansing headquarters.

Bush was accompanied by Land, party Chairman Bobby Schostak, Attorney General Bill Schuette, who’s seeking re-election, and state Sen. John Moolenaar of Midland, who’s running to succeed U.S. Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland. Camp has announced his retirement.

Bush said America’s “new normal” is “deep pessimism,” 1.5 percent annual job growth, “growing dependency on government at every level” and congressional gridlock he blames on the Democratic Senate majority led by Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada.

At a later appearance in Troy, Bush praised Snyder as a “problem solver” and encouraged the faithful in Oakland County to help support a GOP sweep in November for candidates like Land and others.

“For the Republican Party to be successful this election and going forward, we have to have to offer a compelling alternative that gives people hope,” Bush said to a packed crowd that included former Michigan Gov. John Engler.

“Republicans need to get into power to show that we can govern by passing budgets and by working across the aisle to find solutions to immigration, to energy, to regulation, to taxes, to entitlements, all the things so we can restore our sense of optimism again.”

Land’s brief speech in Lansing stuck with her campaign-trail themes: more good-paying jobs are needed, the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) should be repealed and replaced with more of a free-market health care insurance system and Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq are a threat to America.

“As you know, I’m a mom — you’ve probably heard that,” she said, managing to joke about the phrase for which she was derided by political opponents for repeating six times during a recent radio call-in show.

Afterward, Land was asked about appearing with Bush, whose backing of immigration reforms and national Common Core public education assessment standards seems at odds with her views.

Land said states should decide their own standards for evaluating schools. She said the federal government needs to revamp its immigration policies to provide quicker processing of citizenship applications, a path to legal status but not citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants and better border security.

After commenting the immigration system needs to be thoroughly reformed first, she said, “I’m also open to the idea that people who have come here, haven’t committed any crimes, have been good citizens and paid their taxes — for their ability to be here legally. Not citizenship, but to be here legally.”

Land has criticized Peters for supporting a pathway to citizenship and “amnesty,” but she did not elaborate on what she meant by backing legal status for undocumented immigrants.

Peters supported the immigration reform legislation that the U.S. Senate approved and was endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Supporters noted it contained nearly $40 billion for border security and created a pathway to citizenship over more than 10 years.

The Peters campaign used Bush’s appearance with Land to criticize the former governor’s opposition to the federal auto bailout.

“Down in the polls, Terri Lynn Land’s floundering campaign took another step backwards today as she campaigned with another politician who opposed the auto rescue,” said Zade Alsawah, deputy communications director for the Peters campaign.

“It’s no wonder Michigan middle class families continue to lose faith in Ms. Land — she opposed the auto rescue when Michigan needed her most and now she supports an anti-middle class agenda that protects tax breaks for her special interest backers like the Koch brothers at the expense of everyone else. Gary Peters is the only candidate with a proven track record of fighting for Michigan jobs.”

Peters’ campaign has consistently claimed that Land opposed the bailout, which Land has denied.

Bush was scheduled to attend an evening “Governors’ Gala” fundraiser for Snyder at the Detroit Marriott in Troy. The cost was $500 per person, plus another $5,000 per person or couple for a private roundtable and photo reception.

Staff Writer Leonard N. Fleming contributed.