Not so fast on counting Jeb Bush out of 2016 – UPDATE: Jeb endorsed by Rubio’s former chief-of staff, newspaper doubles down

Jeb Bush 22By Lynn R. Mitchell

Not so fast on the calls for Governor Jeb Bush to step aside for 2016. He’s not going anywhere especially since many of those calls came after the former Florida governor had a whopping four minutes and fifty-eight seconds to present his case to voters during a dysfunctional, chaotic CNBC two-hour event that they tried to bill as a debate.

None of the candidates had much time to express anything serious; Governor Bush had the least:

Debate clock:
Rubio: 8:44
Fiorina: 8:37
Kasich: 8:06
Trump: 7:44
Cruz: 6:52
Christie: 6:30
Huckabee: 5:47
Carson: 5:28
Paul: 5:03
Bush: 4:56

One call for Jeb to drop out came from a young fellow blogger who bemoaned the fact that Jeb talked about “boring policy positions.” Interesting … because that’s what Washington is all about. Maybe that’s why the young blogger’s chosen candidate, Marco Rubio, doesn’t like being in the U.S. Senate. Too boring. After all, understanding policy discussions is perhaps what separates the adults from the children in D.C.

For a little perspective, Jeb’s brother faced similar doubts sixteen years ago, and then lost Iowa and New Hampshire. We all know how that turned out.

The exchange that got Rubio supporters’ britches in a bunch was when Florida resident Bush questioned his sitting senator, Rubio, about why he had missed so many senate votes.  Jeb didn’t call out Rubio just because he had missed time in the Senate … he called him out because Rubio is Jeb’s own representative in D.C. There is a difference — but it got lost in all the hubbub.

What was not lost was that the influential South Florida newspaper, The Sun Sentinal, wrote an editorial Wednesday calling on Rubio to step down because of his missed votes (see Sen. Marco Rubio should resign, not rip us off). This is the same newspaper that endorsed Rubio in 2010 and Mitt Romney in 2012. The Sun Sentinel took Rubio to task:

Rubio has missed more votes than any other senator this year. His seat is regularly empty for floor votes, committee meetings and intelliegence briefings. He says he’s MIA from his J-O-B because he finds it frustrating and wants to be president, instead.

“I’m not missing votes because I’m on vacation,” he told CNN on Sunday. “I’m running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again.”

Sorry, senator, but Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job. We’ve got serious problems with clogged highways, eroding beaches, flat Social Security checks and people who want to shut down the government.

If you hate your job, senator, follow the honorable lead of House Speaker John Boehner and resign it.

Let us elect someone who wants to be there and earn an honest dollar for an honest day’s work. Don’t leave us without one of our two representatives in the Senate for the next 15 months or so.

You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy — declined by some in the Senate — to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare.

You are ripping us off, senator.

True, it’s not easy to raise money and run a presidential campaign while doing your day job. But two other candidates — Sens. Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders — have missed only 10 Senate votes during their campaigns for the White House. You, on the other hand, have missed 59, according to a tally by Politico. This includes votes on the Keystone pipeline, the Export-Import Bank and trade, to name just a few.

And you want us to take you seriously as a presidential candidate?

By choosing to stay in the Senate and get the publicity, perks and pay that go with the position — without doing the work — you are taking advantage of us.

Jeb Bush is right to call you out. “What are high standards worth if we don’t apply them to ourselves?” our former governor said in August. “Consider a pattern in Congress of members who sometimes seem to regard attendance and voting as optional — something to do as time permits.”

Ouch. There’s more … go over and read the whole thing. When backed in a corner about missing votes, Rubio took the “everyone else did it so I can, too,” defense.

While the armchair pundits praising Rubio and calling for Jeb to get out make for sensational headlines, many on message boards throughout social media and beyond have been defending Bush including this comment on a bipartisan board responding to calls for Jeb to step aside. The Democratic commenter wrote:

“My sister just made an interesting observation … the Bush family is very polite. W was a terrible president, but never rude. Elder Bush remains a very beloved man by everyone in DC…not an easy feat. He was known to be a man of quality. I don’t think Jeb(!) has it in him to be rude and behave in a reality show manner.

“He is also the only republican my sister has ever voted for in her life. I cannot believe anyone would call for the only qualified candidate on that stage (possible exceptions: Christie, Kasich) last night to exit the race an entire year before the election. If you would get over your obsession with ‘no experience needed’ and half-wits, you might notice you have some candidates whose proven results need a second look. In the interest of our nation.”

Governor Bush has a string of powerful, impressive endorsements from across the nation, not the least of which are former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former Virginia Lieutenant Governor John Hager (see Jeb Bush’s impressive list of endorsements). On Thursday he added former New Hampshire U.S. Senator Judd Gregg.

His success as a two-term governor Florida is one of the best in that state’s history.

The type of debate format that is being used this election cycle does nothing to help voters choose a candidate. While high-profile TV types jostle for their moment on camera as they pit Republican candidates against one another or insist they answer ridiculous questions that have nothing to do with the serious issues facing our nation, some like Dr. Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics have given serious thought to what would make a good “debate” format.

Dr. Sabato made five points:

  • Forget cutting candidates. Let’s cut this awful “debate” format. It’s terrible, and almost everybody across the spectrum agrees.
  • Some of us have urged from the beginning that this historically large Republican field should be separated into two groups, by lot, for each debate. Maybe it should even be three groups — an hour of prime-time devoted to each. (When the field eventually, substantially shrinks, everyone can be at the same table.)
  • Have one moderator, and put the candidates at a table, sitting not standing. The moderator’s job would be to keep time and serve as a traffic cop among participants and topics, but not to argue with the candidates.
  • The contenders would have a discussion among themselves — no doubt heated at times, pushing and pulling for notice and arguments, but up to them to control, occasionally with the moderator’s aid.
  • Has the Republican National Committee had enough chaos and confrontational free-for-alls driven by media moderators? Then step up to the plate, correct the mistakes you made, and at last, do the sensible thing.

Sounds sane. I hope someone is listening.

The bottom line: we are a year away from Election 2016. Any calls at this point for a serious, well-funded candidate like Jeb to leave the race are premature … but maybe they make the writers feel better, and it points out what a threat Jeb is to the rest of the field.  Those who have been through this dance many times in the past realize it’s a marathon, not a dash to the finish line. Stay tuned….

UPDATE #1 – 11/2/15: After the Sun Sentinel called for Rubio’s resignation on Wednesday, they doubled-down on Friday with a follow-up editorial that was just as scathing as the first (see The Sun Sentinel responds: Rather than resign, Marco Rubio blames the media). While Rubio  was ducking and dodging Governor Bush’s question, the editorial staff at the Sun Sentinel was not laughing. They responded:

For a guy who keeps talking about a new kind of politics, Marco Rubio is falling back on the oldest dodge in the political playbook.

Blame the media.

The public deserved better from Florida’s senator at Wednesday’s Republican debate.

Instead, Rubio dodged the concern — expressed by this editorial board — about his poor Senate attendance record, the worst of anybody’s. Neither did he address our call for him to resign rather than continue to leave one of Florida’s two Senate seats mostly vacant as he campaigns for the presidency over the next year.

Instead, he smiled and said: “I read that editorial today with great amusement. It’s actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media.”

As proof, Rubio noted that the Sun Sentinel hadn’t called for then-Sens. Barack Obama and John Kerry to resign when they chalked up even worse attendance records while running for president.

Surprised to hear that he used Democrats in his reasoning, the editorial went on:

While surprised to hear Rubio put himself in the same league as Obama and Kerry, we’d point out that Obama and Kerry were not our senators, and we don’t recall them saying they hated their jobs in the Senate.

Rubio, on the other hand, is our senator. And as such, he is accountable to Florida voters.

They didn’t stop there. In an attempt to explain the reason for asking someone they endorsed five years earlier to resign from that job, the editorial continued:

… who gets to call out this bad behavior? During the debate, when former Gov. Jeb Bush similarly underscored Rubio’s terrible attendance record, the senator said Bush was simply trying to score political points. As for the Sun Sentinel, he said we showed a liberal bias.

But ever since he got to Washington, it seems Rubio has been running for higher office. Almost immediately, he authored a book to introduce himself to the nation. And after demonstrating the courage to sponsor a bill that would comprehensively reform our nation’s immigration law — his lone signature piece of legislation — he backed off, because of politics.

Now, Rubio says he finds the Senate frustrating, that our nation’s greatest deliberative chamber moves too slowly and that he wants out. Instead, he says he wants to be president because he could make change happen faster.

But here’s a question to consider: If Rubio found his Senate job so frustrating that he almost immediately backed off his promises, what’s to say history won’t repeat itself if he were to win the White House?

Look, we’re all frustrated by the dysfunction in Washington. But on the night he won a three-way race for the Senate, Rubio promised Floridians it was “a second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be.”

Rubio said he was going to fight for us and heaven knows, we’ve got big issues that need attention. But because he is off and running for the presidency, we find it incredibly hard to get Rubio’s ear. The people of Florida, who know him best, deserve better.

If Rubio wants to be president, he should go for it, give it all he’s got, full steam ahead. But the demands of the presidential campaign have proven too great for him to do his day job.

And then the Sun Sentinel lowered the boom and again called for Rubio to resign:

Given that, Rubio should resign his Senate and let our governor appoint someone who has the time and desire to not only serve constituents, but to attend the committee hearings, the intelligence briefings, and yes, the floor votes on the big challenges facing our nation.

Read the entire editorial here.

UPDATE #2 – 11/2/2015: News is spreading throughout Florida this morning that Rubio’s former chief of staff has endorsed — and will be campaigning with — Jeb Bush (see Richard Corcoran, former Marco Rubio chief of staff, endorses Jeb Bush for president):

When Jeb Bush campaigns through the Sunshine State on Monday he will be joined by a powerful Florida politician many will be surprised to see at his side.

Richard Corcoran, the Florida House Speaker Designate and former chief of staff to then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, is endorsing Bush’s bid for the White House.

“I have known Jeb Bush for over 20 years,” Corcoran says in a release sent to FloridaPolitics.com and POLITICO. “As Governor, Jeb Bush set the standard against which all other conservatives in this state are measured – no one in Florida would argue that. Jeb Bush always stepped up and was true to his principles, even if that meant facing difficult consequences. I saw him in moments when it would have been easy to cave to the special interests and just go along with the status quo; yet he never did.”

This endorsement is hugely significant. Not only does Corcoran solidly endorse Jeb, calling him, “without question, the most courageous, conservative in this race,” but he goes on to add, “That’s what I want in a leader, and what I know the electorate deserves. When the people of this country get to know the Jeb Bush that I know, they will have no doubt that he is the right choice to become the next President of the United States.”

Corcoran joins every Florida House Speaker in the modern Republican era — with the exception of two (Rubio and Johnnie Byrd) — in backing Jeb Bush (see Florida House speakers line up in support of Jeb Bush). That would be Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul, Allan Bense, Tom Feeney, John Thrasher, and Daniel Webster.

But there’s more. The Corcoran endorsement is important because:

First, it is an endorsement from a significant Florida pol nearly a week AFTER Bush’s widely-panned debate performance. Asking Corona to campaign with him is the clearest sign yet that Bush has no plans to drop out of the race.

Second, Corcoran’s endorsement is an ‘Et tu, Brute’ moment: as a former top adviser to Rubio, the argument can be made that few know Rubio’s abilities — and limitations — as a leader than Corcoran.

Jeb is in the race for the duration and this slaps aside his detractors. Stay tuned….

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