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Should Jeb run or not? Let's count up

Jeb Bush will decide over the holidays whether or not to seek the U.S. Senate seat that Republican Mel Martinez will vacate after 2010. If he runs, Bush will likely clear out the Republican field of candidates, and he would immediately turn a toss-up Senate seat into one leaning Republican.

There is plenty for our former governor to consider as he makes this decision. Not that he asked us, but here are five reasons for him to jump in and five reasons to stay put in the private sector:

Why Bush should pass on the U.S. Senate

1 Because he's Jeb Bush. Anybody who watched him govern Florida knows that Bush, 55, has zero patience for the kind of give and take and dealmaking that effective legislating requires. For an impatient executive who lives to take big ideas and implement them yesterday, being a junior member in the Senate's minority party would be akin to moving into one of Dante's circles of hell.

2 He's got some 'splaining to do. When Jeb Bush left office in 2006, about 60 percent of Florida voters were saying he did a good or excellent job, and to this day he can bask in a reputation as one of the strongest governors in modern history. But given the dismal state of Florida today, that image could be dented in a heated Senate race with Bush facing hard questions about what he did and didn't do to stave off the crises in property insurance, property taxes and the overall economic meltdown inherited by his successor, Charlie Crist.

3 Bush already is an icon. He apparently wants to be the conservative to lead his beleaguered party out of the wilderness, but he doesn't need the Senate seat to do that. He has a stature few others do even out of office and, if he so chooses, can be a leading voice for reform and bold ideas for restoring the GOP. Joining 99 other Washington politicians in the Senate could actually diminish Jeb to mere mortal status in his party.

4 W. Few people loathe Freudian psycho-babble and calls for introspection as much as does Jeb Bush. Does he really want to spend the next few years relentlessly facing comparisons to and questions about his brother, the ex-president, and speculation about his deep-seated motivations? Because that would be his fate, not just during the campaign, but during his tenure in Washington.

5 Business deals. The former governor doesn't like reporters much, but he especially doesn't like reporters asking about his moneymaking and potential conflicts of interest. Senate candidate Jeb Bush would face a host of questions about who paid for his speaking gigs at home and abroad, what he said, and what he did/does on his assorted corporate boards, some of which did business with the state while Bush was governor.

Why Bush should run

1 Because he's Jeb Bush. Jeb would never be just another one of 100 U.S. senators, any more than Hillary Rodham Clinton was. By virtue of who he is and what he's already accomplished in office, Bush would be stand out as a giant political force from Day One in Washington.

2 Public service is in his DNA. There is simply no way someone as passionate about public policy as Bush feels fulfilled biding his time on corporate boards and doing development deals, or whatever it is his mysterious firm, Jeb Bush & Associates, does. Given the deep and complex challenges facing the country, it is the perfect time to add to Washington a leader with the energy, intellect and curiosity that a Sen. Bush would bring to bear.

3 His party needs him. The national Republican Party faces today a profound leadership vacuum, lacking a coherent message or direction. Bush has impeccable conservative credentials, a personal appeal to crucial Hispanic voters, and a knack for the kind of ambitious, new ideas missing from the GOP in Washington lately.

"There is an opportunity in the Republican caucus for a leader with skill, vision, command of the issues, and a commitment to conservative principles (though Bush could stand to reconsider his advocacy of amnesty for illegal immigrants)," National Review recently wrote, urging Bush to run. "He has the right blend of ideas, and the temperament, to join the ranks of such senators as Phil Gramm and Barry Goldwater — standard-bearers who helped rejuvenate conservatism and the party that remains its principal instrument.''

4 The presidency. If Bush still harbors any thoughts about being the third Bush in the White House, the Senate could be his last, best opportunity for a launching platform. The Senate would put Bush in the center of the major debates facing our country, as well as giving him an opportunity to enhance his foreign policy chops leading up to 2012 and 2016.

5 Regardless of which Democrat winds up with the U.S. Senate nomination, Bush probably would win.

Adam C. Smith can be reached at asmith@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8241.

Should Jeb run or not? Let's count up 12/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 5:28pm]
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