Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Jeb Bush appears in all the right places for 2016 bid

It's hard keeping up with Jeb Bush but easy to see the growing buzz around a possible presidential run.

The former Florida governor has been a one-man traveling band, hitting different states to talk about education reform (and knock down fires over Common Core) and economic policy.

On Thursday, Bush ended up in Las Vegas, where he implored educators to "be big or go home."

As important was what Bush did that night: He delivered a speech at a VIP dinner arranged by Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who spent as much as $100 million on the 2012 presidential race.

Adelson's dinner was built around a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and drew several potential 2016 candidates, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Christie's star has dimmed over the bridge-closing controversy. As that scandal unfolded, Bush's stature grew among the Republican establishment, which is looking outside dysfunctional Washington for a candidate.

"We're getting tired of not winning," said Florida lobbyist and fundraiser Brian Ballard. Bush, he added, seems like "he is the one candidate that can really reach out to all sides of the Republican Party and have a legitimate chance of winning the general election."

Bush's busy travel schedule, which has included stumping for political candidates, has fanned talk of a presidential campaign.

Officially he says he is weighing his options but is far from a decision. But his travel shows he is laying the groundwork that would be needed. Donors also tell us Bush has begun to make calls, not to say he is running, but to check in.

Florida's other top Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, is not in Vegas (he was invited, but could not make it, we're told) but had a private meeting with Adelson last year.

Adelson is the face of the super PAC era and the sight of would-be candidates flocking to him is a commentary on how much big money dominates politics. Perhaps that's why Bush barely addressed the meeting when asked by reporters in Las Vegas.

During his speech to Adelson and other donors, Bush talked about the need for immigration reform from an economic standpoint. During a question-and-answer session someone told Bush he should run for president.

"I'm going to ignore that one," he replied with a smile, according to a report by CNN.

Equal time for Rich?

Pinellas Democrats are planning a big gala fundraising dinner, so it's not completely surprising that they've invited a man who is expected to be a big draw: Charlie Crist, the St. Petersburg native who is now a candidate for governor.

But at a meeting of the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee on Thursday, member Nancy Shipes said it was "outrageous" to make Crist the headliner without giving equal time to Nan Rich, the former state senator who also is a Democratic candidate for governor. She noted the local party organization doesn't make endorsements before the primary election.

"I'd like for us to offer an invitation to Nan Rich to attend, as a courtesy to her, to give her equal time with Charlie," she said, and her remarks drew applause.

Democrats' centrist

Al From, founder of the influential Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) that helped reform the beleaguered Democratic Party in the 1980s, appears today on Political Connections on Bay News 9. From has a new book, The New Democrats and the Return to Power, which offers some striking comparisons between the 1980s Democratic Party and the Republican Party of today.

Among the early acolytes of the DLC's centrist message? Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.

Political Connections airs at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. in Tampa Bay.

Times political editor Adam C. Smith and staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report.

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