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Jeb Bush says 'no' to 2012 White House run

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One year ago it would have been almost unthinkable, but a lot can change in a year. Florida’s former governor, the brother and son of former presidents, publicly resurfaced in the past several weeks sparking discussion by some, hope by others, that 2012 would yield yet another Bush on the ballot for President of the United States.

Former Governor Jeb Bush stepped into the spotlight again, standing up for his brother’s reputation and to raise money for candidates in a select few races. A New York Times article on June 22, seemed to turn the spotlight towards Mr. Bush. The article, entitled, “For Jeb Bush, Life Defending the Family Name,” featured exclusive quotes from Mr. Bush defending his brother, former President George W. Bush, and questioning the judgement of President Obama. There was no quote confirming or denying any interest he had in running for the presidency. The reporter, Matt Bai, however, did raise the issue and that seemed to open the door to the stage upon which the spotlight was shining.

Mitch Traphagen photo
President George W. Bush and Governor Jeb Bush in Sun City Center in 2006, with Jeb Bush at the podium with the Presidential Seal. It is an image that some are hoping may yet come to pass, although Mr. Bush last week stated he is not running for president.
Jeb Bush remains a highly popular figure in Florida. His appearance of managing a calm, coordinated and effective response to the devastating hurricane seasons of 2005 and 2006 stood in stark contrast to the White House’s response to Hurricane Katrina. At press conferences, former Governor Bush appeared equally comfortable fielding — and responding to — questions in both English and Spanish, an impressive departure from the norm in the upper echelons of politics. The likelihood of his winning the state’s 27 electoral votes would, by most estimates, be considered high. Unfortunately, that is only ten percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. His fluency in Spanish, however, would likely not be lost on the nation’s burgeoning Hispanic population.

He could certainly count on at least two votes from the generally blue-colored Northeast. As early as 2005, his parents, former President George H.W. and Barbara Bush, discussed the possibility of Jeb becoming president one day.

“He’d be awfully good,” former President Bush said during a June 1, 2005 interview with CNN. “This guy’s smart, big and strong. Makes the decisions. And you know, not without controversy, but he’s led that state.”

But he also acknowledged two problems with the idea.

“The timing’s wrong. The main thing is, he doesn’t want to do it.”

The owner of a consulting company, Jeb Bush has repeatedly stated that his current focus is to earn money for his family. Yet since the New York Times article appeared, the possibility of his entrance into the 2012 race changed from hushed discussion to voices from the rooftop with everyone from the major media to Internet bloggers weighing in on it. For some Republicans, the question became, “If not Jeb Bush, then who?” Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin remains extremely popular within some factions of the Republican party, but is also a polarizing figure nationally. Some dismiss the rest of the potential candidates as unknown entities (Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) or “also rans” (former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney).

“The wrong Bush son became President,” said one member of the Sun City Center Republican Club. “I think Jeb would be a great President.”

These voices were silenced, somewhat, by the camera of a Kentucky television station on July 27. In the state for a fund raiser for Paul Rand, a candidate for the U.S. Senate, Mr. Bush told a reporter from WHAS-11 in Louisville, “I am not running for president.”

Jeb Bush has never said he was running for president. Until last week, he never said he wasn’t, either. Then again, in the world of politics, saying you aren’t going to do something is often akin to saying, “Yes, I am.” A case in point comes from the Nov. 4, 2004, edition of the Chicago Sun-Times in an article about Barack Obama, newly elected senator from Illinois.

“I am not running for president in 2008,” Obama told Sun-Times reporter, Scott Fornek. “I mean, come on guys. The only reason I’m being definitive is because until I’m definitive you will keep asking me this question, but it’s a silly question.”

Thank you for the response, Mr. President.

Despite being the fourth most populous state in the nation, Florida has never produced a U.S. President. While other, less-populated states such as Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska and Vermont have produced a total of five presidents. Having been born in Midland, Texas, that state could technically lay claim to Jeb Bush, joining Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson as native sons making the ascension to the White House. Yet after running the Sunshine State for eight years, few could argue that Mr. Bush is not a Floridian.

“[I think Jeb would] carry Florida easily and several other states,” continued the person from the SCC Republican Club. “I think the Northeast would slaughter him. I think 2012 may be a little too soon, since there is still a lot of animosity out there towards George W.”

At 57 years old, Mr. Bush has plenty of time to consider the possibilities. After all, a lot can change in a year. Or six.

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