Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told New York Republicans on Wednesday that the GOP must become the new party of reform, smaller government, capitalism and patriotism — and become far less grumpy.
But Bush said it should also maintain humility while supporting those principles.
A reform-minded, "forward-leaning" conservative movement can again put Republicans in charge in Washington and in statehouses across the nation, he said at the annual New York Republican dinner.
"United conservatives need to be joyful in this quest to regain control," Bush said. "We can't be grumpy. We can't be telling people to eat their broccoli ... we can't be saying, 'No, no, no' all the time. We have to have a joyous attitude as we make our case to the American people because history is on our side.
"It is important to be forward leaning because if we are thinking about the past and become nostalgic, then you no longer become relevant to people's hopes and aspirations," said the brother and son of former presidents.
"We should be a country that is unapologetic about capitalism," he said to cheers from hundreds of New York Republicans.
Bush also warned that divisions among conservative movements will be the undoing of a Republican revival. Without naming them, he referred to factions among conservatives such as the tea party movement.
Hours before, the New York Republicans were embroiled in a nasty floor fight at their convention over their choice for governor, which tore at the party known for its discipline. State Republican Chairman Ed Cox, former President Richard Nixon's son-in-law, failed to persuade enough delegates to back a Democrat-turned-Republican for the GOP nomination. Bush said such lack of unity can be the undoing of a new GOP resurgence nationwide.
New York Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Long Island, the state's highest ranking Republican, said it was a tough message but an important new approach for a party that currently has no power base in state government.
"I think that it's a blueprint for victory," Skelos said. "The Republican Party at times has lost it way.
"This is a new approach and we have to be positive and proud to be Republicans," Skelos said.
Bush, who left office in 2006, had hundreds of GOP leaders on their feet as he plotted a way for the party to regain power following the Democratic wave led by President Barack Obama.
"This is not about sound bites or politics as usual," Bush said. He praised his friend who introduced him, independent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, as a "plodder" who makes reforms happen. "It's about grinding it out."
Bush spoke to the state's Republican Party at a fundraising dinner after the second day of its convention.
Bush, 57, who lives in the Miami area, runs two foundations and a small consulting firm and delivers paid speeches. Often mentioned as a presidential candidate in 2012, he says he has no interest in returning to elected office.