Byline: Steve Miller, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
MIAMI - Gov. Jeb Bush handily defeated challenger Bill McBride yesterday, thwarting a concerted national Democratic effort to exact revenge for Election 2000.
Mr. Bush won by a comfortable margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
The governor received a call of concession from Mr. McBride at 10:15 p.m., and walked onto the stage of the main ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel at 10:25 to the strains of Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca" and the boom of a confetti cannon.
He was introduced by his father, former President George Bush, and before uttering a word, the governor approached the microphone and let out an exaggerated and animated exhale of relief.
In a five-minute speech, the governor promised a litany of good things for Florida - education, economic growth and family support.
Above all, Jeb Bush said, "we will protect limited government and individual freedom in ways that you can't even imagine.
"I will not let you down," he concluded, and ended his five-minute speech with a flurry of "thank you" greetings in Spanish.
Mr. McBride conceded with a public statement shortly after the race was called for his opponent at 9:35 p.m.
In a brief statement, a composed Mr. McBride said that his campaign has "moved the agenda to the right place. We've made a difference."
The broadcast of his concession was shown on the two large TV screens set up on each side of the stage at Bush party central.
When Mr. McBride began to thank the Florida's teachers union, which essentially ran and funded his campaign, the feed was abruptly cut off - to much Republican applause.
The race had appeared to be close until two weeks ago, when a disastrous final debate flipped the polls, some of which had been showing a dead heat.
Al Cardenas, chairman of the state Republican Party, said "never have the Democrats waged such a fight," referring to a concerted effort from the national party to unseat the governor.
Democrats hoped to take governorship as revenge for the 2000 election, when a victory in Florida put the governor's older brother, George W. Bush, in the White House after an acrimonious and partisan five-week legal battle amid ballot recounts. …