GREENWICH — A physically-fit and newly “unemployed” Jeb Bush took a veiled shot at Hillary Clinton Wednesday night when the former Florida GOP governor was asked to handicap the 2016 presidential field by a well-heeled network of contributors in his father’s hometown.
Bush, 61, did not mention Clinton by name but told supporters at a Greenwich fundraiser for his recently-launched leadership PAC that the former secretary of state would have a lot to answer for concerning the foreign policy miscues of the Obama administration, according to multiple people who heard Bush’s remarks.
Seriously exploring a bid for the White House, Bush poo-pooed the mystique of the Clintons during the kickoff reception for his Right to Rise political action committee.
“He said, ‘If someone wants to run a campaign about 90s nostalgia, it’s not going to be very successful,'” an insider told Hearst Connecticut Media.
The person asked not to be identified because the event, held at the $7.2 million Belle Haven estate of former Goldman Sachs investment banking boss Charles Davis, was closed to the media.
Bush spoke for about a half-hour to some 175 prospective supporters and took questions for another 30 minutes on a wide range of topics from his stance on immigration reform to so-called “Bush fatigue.”
Bush, who recently resigned from all corporate and nonprofit boards that he sat on, emphasized to the crowd that he is his own man.
“He said, ‘Do you have a father? Do you have a brother? Are you the same person?'” the insider said.
The guest list included a bevy of heavy hitters from the financial services industry and political appointees of former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, some of whom gave up to $5,000 to the PAC.
David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller general under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, gave the presidential prospect high marks for his appearance.
“He was clearly on tonight,” said Walker, who characterized Bush as personable and forthright.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. was also in attendance.
“He was extraordinary,” Labriola said.
Greenwich was the home of the late Bush family patriarch Prescott Bush Sr., who served in the U.S. Senate and was the grandfather of Jeb Bush.
In April 2014, Connecticut Republicans welcomed Jeb Bush as the keynote speaker at the Prescott Bush Awards fundraising dinner in Stamford.
Labriola said it was an honor to have Bush return to the state as he tests the waters for a presidential run.
By choosing Greenwich for his debut as a prospective contender, Democrats say, Bush is no man of the people.
“Jeb Bush isn’t a different type of Republican,” said Ian Sams, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee. “We can see that in his actions. He’s opened his campaign by cozying up to the same special interest, corporate, Fox News, donor set that today’s GOP fights tooth and nail to protect, at the expense of working Americans.”
Michael Mukasey, who served as George W. Bush’s third and final attorney general, was in attendance.
So were Richard Breeden, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the first Bush presidency, and David McCormick, a former Treasury under secretary during the second Bush presidency who is president of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.
Bush doubled-down on his sympathetic views toward undocumented immigrants, a position that has put him at odds with hardline conservatives who oppose amnesty.
He also defended his support of the national educational initiative known as Common Core.
Bush chose his words carefully so as not to declare himself a candidate, which would make him subject to more rigid campaign finance rules, according to those in attendance.
He gave off the strongest impression yet that he is all-in for 2016, however.
“It is fair to say that everyone in that room believes that he has every intention of seeing this through,” the insider said.