Saturday, December 27, 2008 12:22 PM
By: Dave Eberhart
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has been busy testing the waters since Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., announced this month that he won’t seek reelection in 2010.
According to Politico, sources indicate the president’s brother hasn’t yet made a final decision, but Republican Party leaders are giving him a thumbs-up. And President Bush has already said his brother would make an “awesome” candidate and senator.
"Everything indicates that he's in," said David Johnson, a Republican strategist and the CEO of Strategic Vision. "You're not making calls and laying the ground work for fundraising unless you're clearing the field for your candidacy."
Even with his brother’s low, low popularity ratings, GOP leaders are of the mind that the Bush family name won’t be a hindrance if he decides to enter the race.
"Quite the opposite, actually," said one source close to Jeb Bush. "What he's found is that everyone is encouraging him to run. It's actually been a little overwhelming," according to the Politico report.
Indeed, the possibility of another Bush entering a crucial national race seemed to excite both politicians and veteran observers in Bush’s home state of Florida over the weekend. Until rising stars like Sarah Palin or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal are better tested, Bush could bring some much-needed gravitas to Republican circles, according to several observers.
Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida and an expert on Florida politics, said Bush's phone calls around the state are "a good sign" that he could be jumping in the race, something that she says is "music to the ears of Florida Republicans."
"Nothing could have come at a better time," MacManus told Politico. "Republicans here in Florida were so down after the election. The mere mention of Jeb's potential Senate run has put Republicans in a much more festive holiday mood."
In the Orlando Sentinel on Sunday, Fla. State Rep. Dean Cannon, who is slated to be the speaker of the state house in 2010, wasted no time in throwing his support to Bush.
“As Floridians ask who would best succeed Martinez in the Senate, I believe that the best and most logical successor is Jeb Bush — not because he has proven that he can win, but because he has proven that he can lead,” Cannon, of Winter Park, Florida, wrote.
”Bush led, not only on issues that were popular, but on issues that were so difficult and so full of political thorns that a generation of politicians before him chose to simply ignore them in the hopes that they would go away or resolve themselves.”
Although there was some speculation that a veteran business leader and former chief executive of his state might hesitate at being just one voice among 100 in the Senate, most seem to think that Bush’s sense of public service would outweigh his ego.
Mark Silva, a veteran Florida politics reporter, wrote in the Chicago Tribune’s Swamp politics blog: “For anyone who has known Jeb Bush a long time, the thought of him even thinking of the Senate came as a surprise — he is the chief executive's chief executive, not the go-along, get-along sort of compromiser that life in a legislature requires. Yet anyone who has known him also knows that he takes his politics, and more importantly, public policy, seriously. He sees a certain void in his party at the moment: An absence of someone in Washington with a pulpit to advance the opposition's cause in a reasoned and methodical manner.”
Another source added, "I think he was a little surprised by the magnitude of support. It was so broad and so deep."
Bush left the governor's office two years ago with high approval ratings, was praised for his hands-on role in handling several destructive hurricanes and has held on to his popularity as a private citizen.
"The support is there," a source said. "Fundraisers are calling him. The money will be there."
But Jeb Bush might face some formidable competition from Gov. Charlie Crist, who is also among those eyeing the empty Senate seat. So is Republican Bill McCollum, the Florida attorney general and former congressman.
Among the Democrats, Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, and Reps. Allen Boyd and Ron Klein are also considering a Senate run.
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I hope Jeb does make a run. I believe that he would be better than either of our current senators. For that matter, I believe he would do a good job based on his time as Florida's governor. I don't agree with everything he did in office, but I think he did a better job as governor than I really expected. And I personally don't care about his family connections, although I know some wouldn't vote for him just for that reason alone.
I'm not so interested in a candidate who can win the seat. That can be accomplished by being a major fund raiser (to pay for TV, radio and print advertising and make yourself known. Remember what it did for Obama). I'm far more interested in a candidate who can lead and lead with the best interests of his (or her, of course) constituency in mind.
As I said, I don't agree with everything he did as governor; only a sycophant agrees with everything another person says or does. Of course, there is also the person who just can't, or won't, think for themselves. The difference between the two is that a sycophant may not agree, or believe in the person they are fawning over, but they think it's to their advantage in some way to do so. The other is a person who's just too lazy to be bothered to think for themselves; of course, it is to their advantage because they don't have to do the work to find out why they should agree or disagree. Now that I think of it, there is a third type. That's the person who agrees with the last person they talked to. In any case, Jeb Bush does not fall into any of the three categories.
He's a proven leader. Florida was hit by four hurricanes in 2004. Florida was further ahead than Louisiana or the Federal Government before, and after, Katrina. I personally will not blame GWB for the Katrina debacle. I'm not going into that here. It's in the past and not part of this issue. Jeb was on top of the situation from the beginning, not waiting for, or relying on, the Feds to take control.
Based on his performance during the hurricanes, I do believe he will do a fine job as a Senator representing the Great State of Florida. Time will tell, of course. I thought the same of Martinez and was sadly disappointed.