Loyal friends greet Jeb Bush in GOP bastian of Hialeah
The cook stepped out the swinging kitchen doors of Chico's Cuban restaurant in Hialeah on Monday, wiping his greasy hands before saying hello to the same man he had greeted nearly 18 years ago.
Luis Castaño again stood by Jeb Bush, smiling for another picture. His business partner, Jesus Ovidez, held a framed photo of himself and the politician, back when Bush was running for Florida governor in 1998.
"Es como uno de la familia," said Castaño, 66. He's like one of the family.
This is the kind of loyalty Bush, 62, now a presidential candidate, is counting on in Florida to remain a 2016 contender for the White House - assuming he stays in the race long enough to compete here.
Bush trails several rivals in Florida polls. When a local Spanish-language television reporter asked Bush after his Chico's breakfast rally if he might drop out, given his stagnant popularity, Bush laughed and said, "No."
"That's a joke for the new year," he added.
Bush tended to his Florida friends the Monday after Christmas with a brief campaign stop in Hialeah, followed by events in West Palm Beach and Ocala before heading back to the place where his political future could be decided: New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary on Feb. 9.
"I'm very optimistic about New Hampshire," he said, also in Spanish. "It's already my second home."