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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A pre-convention conversation w Jeb Bush



CORAL GABLES — The first thing you notice about Jeb Bush's office suite in the grand Biltmore Hotel is how bland and modest it is. Cramped even.

The furniture looks as if it could have been on sale at Office Depot. There's no desk, just a round table cluttered with papers and a drafting table for the computer because he often works standing.

You might picture elegant mahogany and antiques befitting a former Florida governor who remains one of the most important voices in the Republican Party and — he'll hate this line — someone who may be president one day.

But Bush, 59, has never been the showy sort, and the no-frills efficiency of the Jeb Bush and Associates office makes sense.

Minutes after taping a Meet the Press segment for this morning, he bounds into the office for an interview, relaxed and cheerful, talking about how he will spend time in Tampa helping his sons, George P. and Jeb Jr., with their political committees.

In a 45-minute conversation Thursday, Florida's most respected Republican takes every opportunity to heap praise on Mitt Romney. But being himself, blunt and unguarded, he also can't avoid providing a sharp contrast to the cautious Republican nominee.

While he lambastes President Barack Obama's record, he's clearly fed up with Republicans in Washington failing to offer alternatives. Romney has yet to clearly spell out what he would do about the looming fiscal crisis, but Bush plowed right into his prescriptions, including support for the Simpson-Bowles budget plan that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan opposed.

Excerpts from our interview:

[Last modified: Sunday, August 26, 2012 1:26pm]


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