Republican National Convention
Friday, August 04, 2000

Brother's task: Deliver Florida




By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Ohio Gov. Bob Taft introduces Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to an Ohio delegate.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
| ZOOM |
        PHILADELPHIA — If the Ohio Republican leadership is under pressure to deliver for George W. Bush this fall, it pales in comparison to the heat that is on Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the nominee's brother.

        If Jeb Bush, who stopped at the Ohio delegation breakfast Thursday, was to come up short in delivering the Sunshine State for his brother Nov. 7, there could be some awkward silences around the Bush family dinner table this Thanksgiving.

        “I would never live it down for the next 20 years,” the younger brother of the Texas governor told the Ohio delegates.

        When the Bush campaign sits down with a map and plots how it will gather the 270 electoral votes it needs to win the White House, the state Jeb Bush governs is key, as is the nominee's home state of Texas and a string of big Great Lakes states that includes Ohio.

No cakewalk
        But Florida is by no means a safe bet for George W. Bush, even with a Bush sitting in the governor's mansion in Tallahassee.

        Polls there give the Bush campaign a modest lead over Democrat Al Gore. But if Bob Graham, a Florida senator and predecessor of Jeb Bush in the governor's office, ends up on the Democratic ticket as Mr. Gore's running mate, the picture could change very quickly.

        “That would probably narrow it; it would probably be about dead even,” Jeb Bush told Ohio reporters after his breakfast speech. “Bob Graham is a very popular man in Florida. We'd just have to work a lot harder.”

        Complicating the matter for the Florida governor is that the year 2000 has not been particularly kind to his own political fortunes.

The Elian factor
        He was criticized back home for keeping a low profile during the turmoil over Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who was rescued at sea and became the object of a bitter fight on whether he should return to Cuba with his father.

        Florida's Cuban-American community said the boy should stay, and the governor's silence angered many among that politically potent Florida constituency.

        And the Florida governor's move to eliminate affirmative action from the state university system angered many minority voters. The Florida governor expects a tough fight.

        “Call me Karnak; I'm looking into the future — I'm guaranteeing you the Gore campaign will be negative,” Mr. Bush said. “Politics is rough and tumble. It's not a tea party. But people are going to get sick of it real fast.”

        George P. Bush, 24, has been highly visible at the convention here, appearing at gatherings mainly of young and Hispanic Republicans.

        The young Bush is son of the governor and his Mexican-born wife and is fluent in Spanish.

        Furthermore, he is good-looking enough to have become the sex symbol of the Bush campaign.

        “I was doing an interview on MSNBC, and they asked me what it is like being the father of a "hottie,'” Jeb Bush said. “I'm not quite sure what a hottie is.”

Back to Convention Page



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