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CNBC Digital Video Exclusive: Jeb Bush Sits Down with CNBC’s Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood


WHEN: Today, Friday, September 25

WHERE:'s Speakeasy with John Harwood:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 62, remains the financial heavyweight of the Republican presidential field, with more than $100 million raised for his Super-PAC and $11 million for his campaign as of midyear. But he is no longer the consensus front-runner, having fallen behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson nationally, and others in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He still benefits from significant institutional support from Republican officeholders, business leaders and policy advisers. He aimed to deepen those advantages with the recent release of his tax-cut plan, which went beyond anything his brother George W. Bush proposed. Bush sat down with John Harwood to discuss his campaign at the Parlor City Pub in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

A partial transcript from Speakeasy with John Harwood featuring Jeb Bush follows. All references must be sourced to

HARWOOD: Governor, thanks for doin' this.

BUSH: Yeah.

HARWOOD: So in solidarity with your paleo thing, I got the same thing.

BUSH: Thank you.

HARWOOD: Trump does this low energy thing with you. There are times that I've looked at you and I've thought, "Maybe you lost too much weight and you look a little gaunt." Do you think that that might be—

BUSH: No. Trump is just proven the point, if you're loud and you repeat something over and over again—


BUSH: You think that that turns it into truth.


BUSH: This diet actually has created significantly more energy, if you think about it. If you're overweight and not in good shape, you can't sustain the kinda campaign I did. I mean, I campaign.


BUSH: I mean, I'm all in.

HARWOOD: For real.

BUSH: I mean, I don't just go down the elevator, have a press conference, or stay in my room and call in. It should be arduous. You're running for president of the United States, for cryin' out loud." You gotta deal with Putin.

HARWOOD: Let's talk about economics for a minute. We had 12 years of Reagan and your dad, eight years of Clinton, eight years of your brother, and now seven years of Obama. The only president who oversaw 4% growth in every year of the term in the last generation was Bill Clinton in the second half of the 1990s after he had raised taxes, which many Republicans said was gonna tank the economy. Just as they've said about Obama's tax increase.

BUSH: Well, you look at the economy, it's-- no one's-- no one's celebrating 2% growth except the liberals.

HARWOOD: Okay. Let's go back to Clinton--

BUSH: They say the new normal. With the new normal, it's-- it's reject outta hand. Bill Clinton didn't reject the new normal.


BUSH: He signed trade agreements. He was not hostile to capitalism.

HARWOOD: You really think Obama's hostile to capitalism?

BUSH: Yeah, no, I definitely do. I think he believes-- I think he has a deep-seated belief that through government programs and through government regulation, you can improve the social condition. I think that's his default place.

HARWOOD: There'd been a lot of Republican predictions in recent years, both for Clinton and Obama that tax increases, Obamacare was going to destroy the economy and with Clinton, the economy got better over the course of his term. And with Obama, the economy's gotten better. It's not great, but it's gotten better than it was—

BUSH: It's the-- well, it's the worst recovery in modern history. And disposable income for—

HARWOOD: Well, he inherited the greatest recession since the Great Depression.

BUSH: Yeah, we're in year six. At what point do we say, "The dog--" stop saying, "The dog ate my homework," and it's someone else's responsibility?

HARWOOD: You once in describing your years in prep school said, "I was a cynical little turd."

BUSH: This is the second time in the last week I've had to talk about my teenage years.

HARWOOD: I have got to think that the events that have unfolded in the campaign so far have revived just a bit of that cynicism.

BUSH: Not at all, not at all.

HARWOOD: Really?

BUSH: No. Man, this is the greatest—

HARWOOD: The look on you face on that debate stage when you're hearing some of the stuff from Donald Trump right next to you, and there's a look of disgust, that I can't believe he's saying this stuff, that's-- that's gotta make you cynical—

BUSH: No, not at all. It-- it's-- it is what it is. It's part of this angst that people feel. I can-- I can sense why people-- why he's a phenomena. But I think-- I think in the long run, people are gonna wanna have someone that has the experience and the skills and the ideas to lift them up. And I-- I'm not deterred by that at all.

HARWOOD: Governor, thanks so much.

BUSH: John, thanks.


BUSH: Thanks for the dinner.

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