Tags: Jeb | Bush | senate | run

Jeb Bush Signals He's Poised to Run

Saturday, 27 Dec 2008 12:22 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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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."

[To see the recent Newsmax interview with Jeb Bush, go here now]

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.

[To see the recent Newsmax interview with Jeb Bush, go here now]

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