JEB BUSH sailed to an easy victory over his Democrat challenger and secured a second term as the Governor of Florida by a margin of 56 per cent to 43. The victory gives the party of his brother, President George Bush, a crucial foothold to win the state in the presidential elections two years from now.
No victory for the Republicans on election night - and no loss for the now bedraggled Democrats - was more symbolic than this one in the Sunshine State. No other contest in the country was as important to President Bush both for family and political reasons, looking ahead to 2004.
While the Democrats are now limping nationally, in Florida they are entirely crippled. Voting on Tuesday left the party without a single government officer in Tallahassee, the state capital, and with so few members in the state legislature that they have been rendered virtually irrelevant. "We're staring into the abyss," conceded Dan Gelber, a Democrat state representative from Miami.
Recriminations will focus on the Democrat runner, Bill McBride, who singularly failed to translate obvious weaknesses in Jeb Bush's record, with a flagging state economy and a stumbling school system, into a platform for victory. Analysts were quick to attack his campaign, which failed to galvanise African-Americans.
Democrats were wistful, moreover, that they had bungled the opportunity to get their own back for the calamity of 2000, where, after five weeks of recounting and gazing at hanging chads, the state was declared for President Bush by a razor-thin majority, giving him the keys to the White House. …