Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush will take questions from conservative commentator Sean Hannity in what sounds like a must-see matchup Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, D.C., The Daily Signal has learned.
The move by the former Florida governor to face his conservative critics head-on through Hannity, a longtime champion of “bold color” conservatism, is the biggest news so far in the runup to CPAC, the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservative activists.
Reached for comment after The Daily Signal first reported plans for the Bush-Hannity segment this afternoon, Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said by email:
Governor Bush is looking forward to sitting down with Sean Hannity to talk about a range of issues, and looking forward to being with the crowd at CPAC. It’s always an exciting event.
Hannity reaches millions of Americans, most of them conservative, through his self-titled Fox News show as well as a syndicated radio talk show.
“@JebBush is looking forward to sitting down with @seanhannity.”-Bush spokeswoman @kristymcampbell
A spokeswoman for Hannity downplayed the delight the Bush-Hannity onstage meeting holds for conservatives.
The TV and radio host plans to interview other Republican hopefuls in some format at CPAC, among them Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and real estate magnate Donald Trump, she told The Daily Signal.
Although each 2016 prospect with a speaking slot will be expected to answer at least some attendees’ questions moderated by CPAC officials, spokesman Ian Walters said, Hannity will interview Bush on his own on the main stage, in his trademark manner.
Conservatives, including likely rivals in the 2016 race, have questioned Bush’s conservative credentials in part because of what they consider too-liberal stands on immigration and Common Core.
The Bush camp and CPAC officials had been discussing a one-on-one session with Hannity for some time, a source familiar with the talks said.
They apparently kept the agreement under wraps to provide a jolt of excitement to conservatives headed to the nation’s capital to hear Bush and other potential candidates for president at the conference, which begins Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
The Bush-Hannity encounter is set for 1:40 p.m. Friday. Hannity will address the crowd in his own appearance scheduled for 11 a.m.