Jeb Bush courts Tampa Bay Republicans

At a Hillsborough County Republican dinner, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush took a page out of his brother's playbook, one that struck a tone of "compassionate conservatism."

One of the first things Jeb Bush did tonight was clarify remarks he made earlier in the day, that he "didn't know why" the Charleston massacre happened.

"It just breaks my heart that someone, a racist, would do what he did," Bush said.

The position differs from other Republicans in the race, who have called the massacre an attack on religion.

Bush argued the GOP has to change its tone.

"The next conservative has to go campaign in places where they haven't seen a Republican in a while," said Bush. "We need to go to black churches to talk about school choice. We need to go campaign in Latino communities to make sure they know they're welcome."

Bush is measuring that against the party's grassroots supporters who are passionately against paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants and who have called him too moderate and establishment to win or govern.

His campaign played a video hammering conservative talking points.

"For those who have been involved from the beginning of this movement to make Florida a conservative state where people can rise up again, I applaud all of you," the video said.

Fox 13 political editor Craig Patrick says Bush is trying to do more than elbow out conservative donors who may be drawn to Florida rival Senator Marco Rubio.

"He now has to show, not only can he raise a lot of money," said Patrick. "But also that he can rev up, excite, and draw passion."

Bush's campaign team handed out "Jeb for President" stickers.

Not everyone was ready to put them on.

"I'm shopping, if you will," said voter Steve Emerson.

Polls show Bush is only two points ahead of Rubio in Florida.

They both need to win Florida's March primary, but only one can under the winner-take-all delegate system.

Bush argued that executive experience is needed.

"It is going to require not just talking, not just saying I am going to do things that are impossible to do. It's going to require someone who has leadership skills," Bush said.

Bush announced that his campaign will be opening its statewide election headquarters in Tampa.