PHOENIX - Taking his inspiration from a photo unearthed earlier this week by CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby, Jeb Bush on Friday compared the current state of the Republican Party to a happily outdated hairstyle from the last century.
"We used to be the party in the front. After this last election, sadly, we're the party in the back," the former Florida governor told a gathering of conservative activists outside Washington, recalling a 1970 photo Hamby posted on Twitter recently featuring a mullet-topped Bush.
"The question is, how do we get to be the party in the front again?" Bush asked at the Conservative Political Action Conference, launching into an examination of the GOP's faults.
"Way too many people believe Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on," Bush said.
He characterized some Republicans as dismissive of certain segments of the population, calling to mind Mitt Romney's secretly recorded comments about the 47% of Americans dependent on government.
"Never again - never again - can the Republican Party simply write off entire segments of our society since we assume our principles have limited appeal. They have broad appeal," Bush said, a direct rebuttal of Romney's assertion on the tapes that it was "not my job" to try and woo people supported by the government.
"I'm here to tell you there is no 'us' or 'them.' The face of the Republican Party needs to be the face of every American, and we need to be the party of inclusion and acceptance," Bush said to loud applause. "It's our heritage and our future, and we need to couch our efforts in those terms."
He spelled out a series of key principles - including reforming the education system and reducing the role of government in regulating business - and declared it was time that financial success "be cool again."
"We need to reestablish in America the idea that success is a good thing, rather than being viewed with distaste and suspicion," Bush said.
But despite the gloomy outlook at the top of his speech, Bush ended on a more optimistic note, borrowing words his father, former President George H.W. Bush, used during his hospital stay earlier this year.
"As my dad said, 'Put away the harps,'" he said. "We have within our grasp the means by which our country will reclaim its momentum, leave its mark upon this remarkable century, and secure a better future for all."