Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Less-Familiar Face of the Political 'Dynamic Duo' as Florida's Governor, the Younger Bush Brother Is Creating His Own

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

The Less-Familiar Face of the Political 'Dynamic Duo' as Florida's Governor, the Younger Bush Brother Is Creating His Own

Article excerpt

He pushed through major education reforms. He helped usher in a $1 billion tax cut. Some politicians believe his "softer" brand of conservatism could become a model for reviving the Repub-lican Party nationally.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush?

No, it's his brother, Jeb - the governor of Florida and forgotten member of the ruling Bush duo. In his first 140 days in office, Jeb Bush is making a quick mark on America's fourth-largest state. True, some of this is because Republicans control both the state legislature and governor's mansion for the first time since Reconstruction. But Mr. Bush has also reinvented himself politically since he first ran for office - and thus is now creating a persona on the national stage other than as the younger brother of George W. "I think what he was trying to do {during the Florida legislative session} is put his stamp on the state and show, 'I am a player in my own right. I am not just George's little brother,' " says Richard Scher, a political scientist at the University of Florida. But the big question is whether this Miami real estate developer with no prior experience in elected office has what it takes to survive once his gubernatorial honeymoon is over. Politics in Tallahassee can fast degenerate into a quagmire every bit as unsavory and treacherous as the deepest muck of the nearby Apalachicola swamp. Another Kennedy dynasty? But if Jeb Bush is for real, the Bush brothers may be on the verge of creating a new American political dynasty, a kind of Republican version of the Kennedys. Bush's early success is so widely recognized that he is even receiving grudging compliments from Democratic strongholds like Broward County - a suburban community in southeast Florida. "He has been a very effective governor," says Ben Wermiel, a long- time Democratic activist in Broward. Perhaps even more alarming from a Democratic perspective is Mr. Wermiel's personal assessment: "I like Jeb Bush as a person. He is a likable guy." This is not to suggest that Wermiel and other hard-core Democrats would commit party treason and actually vote for Bush. But it is an indication that the conservative Republican has been successful in portraying himself as something more than just a conservative Republican. It is an effort that began shortly after Bush lost an earlier run for governor in 1994, falling a mere 64,000 votes shy of Lawton Chiles in the closest governor's race in Florida history. Bush realized that a traditional conservative Republican had little appeal to much of the electorate. So he reinvented himself as a kinder, gentler Jeb. He became a man willing to listen to ordinary Floridians and learn from their experiences and plight. And he did more than just talk and listen. Among other efforts, he established direct ties with the African-American community by helping to create a successful charter school in the depressed Liberty City section of Miami. …

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