Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trump Win Spells Problem for Bush in Florida Primary; Analysts Say Time May Be Running out for Establishment Hopefuls

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Trump Win Spells Problem for Bush in Florida Primary; Analysts Say Time May Be Running out for Establishment Hopefuls

Article excerpt

Byline: Phillip Heilman

Jeb Bush unveiled his "Jeb Can Fix It" presidential campaign last November during a low-key event in Jacksonville, a city that at least on paper should be solid Bush country.

The city's prominent donors back him. He played a role in one of the city's major sources of civic pride, bringing the Jaguars NFL franchise to town. His son, who held a fundraiser here, attended The Bolles School, a local private school.

And yet it was Donald Trump who attracted thousands to The Jacksonville Landing's courtyard in October for a characteristically wide-ranging, 80-minute speech that reverberated through downtown.

That contrast may have been an early indication of what was to come.

Trump's victory Tuesday left the Republican establishment scrambling to find answers. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina dropped out of the race Wednesday.

"If the establishment lane wants to be successful, they need to do two things: consolidate around one candidate, and do it sooner rather than later," said Rick Mullaney, director of the Jacksonville University Public Policy Institute. "Otherwise, we are looking at Donald Trump or Ted Cruz as candidate from the Republican Party."

The March 15 Florida primary could offer redemption for the campaigns of Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio - who came up short in Iowa and New Hampshire. The stakes are high. The winner gets the 99 available, winner-take-all delegates in their own back yard.

But polls in Florida have shown Trump with commanding leads over the familiar Florida candidates.

"He's been able to tap into an anger in the electorate," Matthew Corrigan, a political scientist from the University of North Florida, said of Trump. "And right now, he's probably the favorite."

The viability of Trump's campaign came into question when he underperformed in Iowa, but his response in New Hampshire was robust. He received more than 35 percent of the vote, which doubled that of second-place finisher John Kasich and was roughly the equivalent to the votes cast for Cruz, Bush and Rubio combined. …

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