Mentor Jeb Bush takes challenge by mentee Rubio in stride

Alex Davis w Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush talked with Alex Davis in Bristol, Va., in September.

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Jeb Bush has been described by the Wall Street Journal as “the most qualified candidate to be president. For all the ‘establishment’ criticism, any fair reading of his eight years in office shows it would be hard to design a more successful conservative governorship — lower taxes, limited spending, Medicaid reform, landmark school-choice initiatives. He left office in 2007 with a 60% approval rating.”

One thing he was known for while governor was personally responding to citizens’ emails, thus earning the title “eGovernor.”

After spending years building the Republican party in Florida, serving two terms as a  hands-on governor who responded to emails, and who took a young fledgling politician named Marco Rubio under his wing only to see him become an opponent in the 2016 presidential race, Bush continues on the campaign trail.

The Washington Post dug into the Bush-Rubio relationship (see Jeb and Marco’s backyard battle royal):

Sasha Tirador, an independent political consultant who often handles Spanish-language Republican campaigns, said she has heard older Cuban-Americans grouse that Rubio didn’t wait his turn.

“The sense among many of them is that Marco betrayed his mentor,” Tirador said. She said that Bush’s record of accomplishments might be more attractive to Republican voters here, even Cuban-Americans, who don’t necessarily view Bush as an Anglo.

“Jeb Bush is more than an honorary Cuban. He’s an honorary Hispanic,” she said.

More than any other single figure in the county, Bush is responsible for making the GOP what it is in Miami — and, perhaps, the state. And those efforts helped pave the way for Rubio’s rise.

The bilingual Bush moved to Miami in 1980 when he was 27 years old (Rubio was 9) to work on his father’s campaign for president and then vice president on the ticket of Ronald Reagan, whose campaign team identified Cuban-Americans as ripe for plucking because of their cultural conservatism, vehement anti-communism and still-fresh memories of John F. Kennedy’s botched Bay of Pigs invasion.

Ahead of Reagan’s 1984 re-election campaign, Jeb became chair of the county party. He became known as a relentless recruiter who reveled in his work — he described converting Democrats as “missionary work.”

The results: 4,000 Democrats switched their party registration that year, with Bush hand-delivering half of that total to the elections office in a single day. On one notable occasion, immediately after a 1984 naturalization ceremony in the Orange Bowl, nearly 10,000 Hispanics registered Republican. In all, voter rolls grew 20 percent that year, an increase disproportionately due to Hispanics, 74 percent of whom registered Republican. Bush’s efforts helped reduced the Democrats’ 3-1 registration edge over Republicans to 2-1 by Election Day, The Miami Herald reported.

A decade later, Bush ran for his first statewide elected office against incumbent Gov. Lawton Chiles and narrowly lost. He continued building the local GOP but also began to direct his efforts at the state level as well. He won in 1998, becoming the first Republican since Reconstruction to govern with a majority-Republican Legislature. In his 2002 re-election, Jeb throttled his opponent as Republicans seized the Governor’s mansion, Florida Legislature and Cabinet. In both of his wins, Bush carried Miami-Dade, which remained disproportionately loaded with Democratic voters.

Along the way, Rubio entered Bush’s orbit. A child of the Reagan years, Rubio came of age during the Bush-led Republican ascendancy in Florida. He interned for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and, in 1996, was recruited by Bush’s future state GOP chairman, Al Cardenas, to run Miami get-out-the-vote efforts for Bob Dole’s doomed presidential campaign. Two years later, he won a city commission seat in the middle-class suburb of West Miami, which borders the tonier Coral Gables where Bush lives today. In 1999, less than a year after Bush assumed office, Rubio won a tough special election for a state House seat.

A loyal Bush-agenda voter, Rubio scaled the rungs of power in the state House and quickly began running for a future post as Florida House speaker. Bush’s machine helped, but Rubio did much of it on his own as well.

Rubio started his two-year term as speaker in 2007, the same year Bush left office due to term limits, and became the standard bearer for his legacy. He hired Bush’s old staffers and policy wonks and resisted the agenda of then-GOP Gov. Charlie Crist, who was viewed by conservatives with suspicion. When the two clashed in the 2010 Senate race, Bush and his network helped keep Rubio alive until he picked up momentum and defeated Crist.

Rubio showed his gratitude by lavishing praise on Bush in his “American Son” autobiography. A year after that, in 2013, Republicans started to turn on both of them for supporting a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Rubio tried to make amends with conservatives and backed away from the immigration bill he helped draft. But Bush didn’t change much and, unlike Rubio, stuck by his support for the Common Core educational standards.

Ah, the misunderstood and misrepresented Common Core (see Former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett explains Common Core). As to immigration reform, Governor Bush has a common sense approach to immigration (see Jeb Bush has a plan to secure the border and enforce our immigration laws and WSJ … ‘Clint Bolick: Jeb Bush’s conservative immigration agenda’).

Well respected on both sides of the aisle, Jeb Bush now has an e-book published and is still personally answering emails (see Jeb Bush really does ‘Reply [to] all (even to the Washington Post) ):

[Jeb Bush is] replying quickly to e-mails sent by new supporters and others curious to see whether he really writes back.

The increased e-mail activity comes as Bush published a new book this week entitled, “Reply All,” a 730-page review of the millions of e-mails he received while Florida governor from 1999 to 2007.

An avid e-mailer, Bush traveled the state with a BlackBerry holstered to his waistline — a sight so infamous it’s enshrined in his official state portrait. These days, Bush uses an iPhone.

“Everyone could e-mail me, and they did,” he explained in the book’s foreword. “Millions of e-mails came in through our state website, but it wasn’t until I made my personal e-mail — — public that I earned the nickname the ‘eGovernor.’ As much as I could, I e-mailed back. My staff estimated I spent thirty hours a week answering e-mails, either from my laptop or later my BlackBerry. I often did this while on the road. Otherwise I answered e-mails very early in the morning, late at night, or on Saturday.

I like this tweet from the campaign trail, and so did Jeb:

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