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Election 2004

Bush an asset for brother's run

By Associated Press
Published March 7, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Jeb Bush is quietly helping his brother's attempt to be re-elected president by traveling the country raising money and talking to supporters.

But he may also help him by just being himself.

The Florida governor and his brother have much in common, and if Jeb can stay popular in Florida, it may help the president win a second term.

"You can hardly select a policy issue where the president and his brother aren't in tandem," said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor. "That means you get a two-for-one punch for the president here in Florida in terms of public policy articulation."

Both favor limiting damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, both say their tax cuts have helped the economy, the governor's education policy borrows heavily from the policy his brother put in place when serving as Texas governor, they are strong advocates for faith-based programs and both support alternatives to affirmative action.

MacManus said Jeb Bush doesn't even need tell voters about the connection for it to benefit President Bush, just simply tout his own policies.

"They sound so similar when Jeb speaks they often hear what the president is saying," MacManus said.

After the governor's State of the State address, the state Republican party pointed to links between the brothers, saying the speech would help the president during the fall election.

While Bush's annual address didn't mention the election, the governor steered far from controversial subjects while highlighting issues he shares with his brother - education, the economy and partnering with faith-based groups to help families.

The speech also had references to gains black students have made under his leadership - including rising test scores and a higher rate of university enrollment. On the same day, a group called the Florida African American Education Alliance took out a full-page newspaper ad praising the governor's education policy. Both come at a time when Republicans are trying to make inroads with black voters, who traditionally support Democrats in high numbers.

Bush will continue traveling the country - usually after business hours or on weekends and without much fanfare - to talk to supporters and raise money.

And the governor, like other Republicans, says he believes Florida will be a battleground state.

"I'm ramped up, ready to go," Bush said. "So are thousands of people around the state. There's lots of support for the president, but no one has ever thought that this was going to be a landslide. It's going to be a close election and we're planning for that and were organizing for that."

Until now, much of the work Jeb Bush has done has been behind the scenes. The Bush campaign considers him to be the spiritual leader in Florida, offering advice and direction and serving as a cheerleader. He often calls the campaign's county chairman to offer encouragement.

And a strong victory for the president will also help any future political pursuits the governor may have while a close election or a loss could reflect poorly on Jeb Bush, said Merle Black, an Emory University political science professor.

"It was probably a great embarrassment for Jeb that it was as close as it was in Florida and all that ensued," in 2000, Black said. "They certainly don't want a repeat of that."

[Last modified March 7, 2004, 01:35:55]

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