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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pining for Jeb Bush's leadership



jebhope.jpgPlease, Jeb. Pretty please?


To hear a growing number of conservative activists tell it, the person best equipped to excite Republicans and beat Barack Obama in 2012 is a man who has no intent to run. The Jeb Bush chatter says as much about the seemingly anemic Republican presidential field slowly taking shape for 2012 as it does about the former Florida governor's stature in the GOP. At this point in the 2008 presidential cycle, more than a dozen candidates had announced or filed paperwork to raise money, while today only one Republican — former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain — has announced.

"None of the candidates talking about running now really stands out, but Jeb Bush would be really strong,'' said Adam Hubler of Virginia, among hundreds of conservative activists gathered in Washington, D.C.,  for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Between speeches by potential presidential contenders including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, true believers could take turns throwing eggs at a picture of Al Gore.

"There's no question Jeb Bush is one of, if not the, most popular Republican in the country, but the fact is he's not running,'' said Ron Kaufman, a veteran Republican strategist who helped Jeb's father win the White House in 1988.

In 2010, Senate candidates like Marco Rubio in Florida and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania showed Republicans how ardent and uncompromising conservatives can win not only primaries, but also general elections. This year the Republican frontrunner is Romney, with his reputation for flip-flops and a record of enacting health care reform in Massachusetts that looks a lot like "ObamaCare."

Enter Jeb Bush, the authentic, can-do conservative whose last name no longer seems as big an albatross as it did when his brother was still in the White House or just out of it. He has a vast fundraising network and a knack for winning Hispanic and swing voters crucial to general election success. ...

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[Last modified: Friday, February 11, 2011 9:48pm]


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