Jeb Bush, McCollum Have Message; Politicians Push Early Voting during Monday Stump in Jacksonville

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

A whirlwind cross-state campaign stump that started Monday with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush casting his early primary ballot for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum in Miami made a lunchtime stop in Jacksonville to rally the troops.

Bush cheered on about 200 party faithful inside the GOP's Mandarin headquarters to "get everyone you know to vote early" for McCollum, standing by his side. Meanwhile, campaigners for McCollum's Aug. 24 opponent, Rick Scott, waved signs outside.

While polls show Scott leading by a few points with two weeks until the election, McCollum said he is the one to fight for state rights when it comes to jobs, the economy and other issues.

"I am the known conservative and I know how to make a difference in this government," McCollum said. "This fellow Scott, well, he's a newcomer we really don't know much about, and what we do know isn't very pleasant."

As for the former governor, Bush first supported McCollum months ago by appearing in his first campaign ad. He said McCollum is still the man for the nomination over Scott and Democratic contender Alex Sink.

"I endorsed Bill early and often and I believe in the guy," Bush said. "Once they get the necessary information, I have total confidence in Republican primary voters to make Bill McCollum our party nominee, and he will be the best candidate we could have against the Democratic nominee."

McCollum, the state's attorney general, faces off against Scott and Mike McAlister for the GOP nomination for governor. Sink, Florida's chief financial officer, and Brian Moore seek the Democratic nomination. The party winners face a host of independent and alternative party candidates come Nov. 2.

Bush, governor from 1998 to 2007, told a standing-room-only crowd in Mandarin that he was glad he isn't in the "attacking business anymore" since he is out of politics.

But he said he cast his ballot for McCollum because the attorney general is not one of those who will "abandon their principals and try to be all things to all people, try to be popular at a time when we need strong leadership. …