Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) warned on Sunday that Republicans aren't doing enough to boost their appeal to a wider swath voters, a lack of action that could damage the party in the future as demographics shift.
"This is going to be a close election, but long-term, conservative principles, if they're to be successful and implemented, there has to be a concerted effort to reach out to a much broader audience than we do today," Bush said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Bush often sounds the alarm about GOP rhetoric and Latino voters in particular, whom he said could be turned off by the way Republicans discuss immigration and other issues. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney trails President Barack Obama by significant margins among Latino voters, the second-fastest growing population in the United States. Bush's brother, former President George W. Bush, held far better numbers with Latino voters than Romney currently does.
On Sunday, the former Florida governor did not refer to the GOP's need to appeal to any specific group, but said the party could find it seriously damaging if Republicans do not expand their base.
"I'm concerned about it over the long haul for sure," Bush told "Meet The Press" host David Gregory. "Our demographics are changing and we have to change not necessarily our core beliefs, but how we -- the tone of our message and the message and the intensity of it, for sure."
Gregory pointed to a recent poll that found 20 percent more voters think Obama would be better about caring for average people than Romney would. But Bush said the president's advantage won't stick, adding that Romney can boost his efforts to connect with voters in his speech Thursday at the Republican National Convention.
"As the president goes on the attack, constantly attacking, constantly using negative messaging, I think his connectivity with people will drop," Bush said. "Governor Romney has a chance at this convention going forward to reconnect with people to set the stage for the general election and show who he is, what's in his heart."
The election could still be a close one, Bush said. Even though he thinks Romney should easily be able to win based on economic issues, he said other controversies could hurt the candidate.
"I think Mitt wins when it's about these big things," Bush said. "If it's about the constant distractions, it'd be a very, very close race."
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