Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Time for Jeb Bush?

Former Florida governor could be the GOP's best hope in 2016 presidential race


Eileen Shields-West, author of "The World Almanac of Presidentia...

There are the chosen ones. Recently, TIME Magazine practically anointed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida as the Republican stars of the future, featuring them on covers just about a month apart. For his brutal way of warning about Hurricane Sandy ("Get out"), disparaging the delay in aid ("disgusting") and always getting things done, Christie, 50, was hailed as "THE BOSS." At the top of his game, Christie enjoys a 74 percent approval rating as he faces re-election in the fall.

The younger Rubio, 41, was labeled "The Republican Savior" by TIME because, as a Hispanic, he is trying to repair the damage done in the last election by Republicans who spoke out in favor of electric fences, alligators and "self-deportation" to contain immigration. Seemingly sent from central casting, Rubio is in the forefront of a bipartisan solution on the immigration issue. He was even chosen to give the all-important response to the president's State of the Union address on Feb. 12. And, while there were a few hiccups in his performance, there's a lot of guessing that he can still get ready for prime time.

And then there is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 60, who in his own quiet way is exploring a run for the presidency. For a while, George W. Bush's younger brother did not want to run because of family considerations and the desire to make some money. The time may be right in 2016. He is getting encouragement and giving some, with potential backers circling.

Jeb Bush has name recognition in his own right and certainly because of his family dynasty - the last two Republican presidents had his last name. That comes with the baggage of having to sidestep much of his brother's legacy as president.

On the other hand, Jeb Bush is building his own. As governor from 1999 to 2007, he was an early proponent of charter schools and distance-learning to improve education in rural areas and has set up a think tank on education reform. A fluent Spanish speaker with a Mexican-American wife, he has long pushed for a comprehensive immigration reform, differing with Rubio and others who would take a more measured approach. He has co-authored a new book called "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution" which will be launched March 6 in Washington at the start of a national book tour.

He is getting out and about in other ways too, speaking for the very first time at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in mid-March. And in May, the younger Bush will be the keynote speaker at the Mackinac Policy Conference in Michigan, talking about education, immigration and economic growth. (As governor, he left Florida in good financial order, but that was before the recession hit.)

Some think Republicans should turn his way. Says Founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition Ralph Reed, "...if the goal is principled conservative leadership that overperforms among Hispanics and women, no one has been more effective than Jeb." Is it time for Jeb Bush?

Eileen Shields-West has served as a correspondent of TIME Magazine and has reported for CBS, CNN and NPR. She has written a book on political campaigns called "The World Almanac of Political Campaigns" (1992), and edited and contributed to "Choosing the Right Educational Path for Your Child" (2008), a book on 21st century schools. She is currently chair of Refugees International, a leading non-profit organization that advocates for refugees and the internally displaced, traveling to such places as Darfur, South Sudan, Rwanda, the Congo, Thailand and Cambodia to advocate on refugee issues. She sits on the board of The SEED Foundation, which is responsible for setting up the first public charter boarding school in the nation. She volunteers as a Bookpal in D.C. public schools. She holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.

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