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Jeb's frustration simmered in 2000

By TIMES STAFF WRITERS
Published July 16, 2006


Some dramatic new details about Jeb Bush and the final weeks of the 2000 presidential election in Florida are coming out in the new book One Party Country: The Republican Plan for Dominance in the 21st Century, by Tom Hamburger and (former St. Petersburg Times reporter) Peter Wallsten.

It seems Gov. Bush was a lot more worried about Al Gore's Florida prospects than the Bush-Cheney campaign team in Austin, Texas, and became mighty frustrated that Karl Rove wasn't listening to him seriously enough and taking his advice on Florida strategy.

"Something's got to give," Jeb Bush said at one tense meeting in the governor's mansion with Bush-Cheney strategists, including Ken Mehlman and Chris Henick. "You guys are not listening."

From the book: "In the final week, Jeb took matters into his own hands, ordering the state Republican Party to commission its own poll using his campaign's Washington firm, Public Opinion Strategies. The new poll showed that Gore had pulled ahead by at least one percentage point. Even among white males the Texas governor was struggling. Sally Bradshaw, Jeb's chief of staff, took the results to her boss.

"What do we do with these numbers?" she asked.

Jeb directed Bradshaw to call Austin immediately. But instead of moving swiftly to deal with the apparent erosion of support, Rove and his brain trust were furious that Jeb and his team had done a poll on their own. Campaign officials believed their numbers were better. The conversation grew so tense that at one point Bradshaw called Rove a jerk.

On Election Day, when the Florida problem finally became clear to Rove, Bradshaw advised him to pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into phone calls, especially in the conservative Panhandle, to mobilize voters.

LUNSFORD AND CRIST: Look for an upcoming TV ad featuring Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and Mark Lunsford, father of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, the victim in a murder trial that is receiving national attention. Lunsford tells us he reached out to the attorney general to help pass a bill to prevent such murders in the future, now a key part of Crist's platform.

"I called him up on his cell phone early in the morning and told him we can't have another child die," said Lunsford, crediting Crist with making legislation strengthening control of child sex offenders a top priority.

"I'm a big supporter," Lunsford said of Crist.

IDEA TIME: Check out incoming state House Speaker Marco Rubio, R-Miami, today at 11 a.m. on Political Connections on Bay News 9. Rubio talks about his "100 Ideas" initiative, soliciting from citizens ideas on how to make Florida better. Citizens are so frustrated and disconnected from politics, Rubio says, that his goal is to make politics relevant to them again.

His home county delegation is bitterly divided over support and opposition to state Sen. Alex Villalobos, who was ousted as a future Senate president and voted against key Bush priorities. But Rubio brushed off the potential for those divisions to hamper his speakership.

"I'm telling them, and I've told everyone, to refocus on what matters," Rubio said in the taped interview. "Because 10 years from now no one's going to remember what side you were on on some Senate campaign in Miami. They will remember if you reinvent or transform public education on Florida to make it a world leader."

LEGISLATORS WANT GALLAGHER TO QUIT: Ten Florida GOP lawmakers, all Crist supporters, sent Tom Gallagher letters Thursday asking him to drop out of the Republican gubernatorial primary, saying that he risks splintering the majority party and is trailing Charlie Crist in polls and money.

"We hope that you will take this selfless step forward to put the party first, and that the unity from this will be the crowning achievement of your dedicated career as a Republican," said the letters, orchestrated by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, and Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral.

The response? A letter from assorted prominent Republicans, including former state GOP chairmen Tom Slade and Van Poole, former House Speaker John Thrasher and former Attorney General Jim Smith invoking the "brave young men and women fight abroad for democracy" and chastising Fasano and company for wanting to deny Florida Republicans the opportunity to participate in a primary election.

GALLAGHER'S FAVORITE CHARLIE: More good news/bad news for the Gallagher campaign. The good news is he started airing a second TV ad with Tom and wife Laura Gallagher, Tom playing basketball and chess with son Charlie and Charlie holding a "Tom Gallagher for Governor sign."

Laura offers, "When Tom talks about family, he speaks from the heart and he speaks from personal experience." Tom then talks about how having a child "settles you down" - clearly an answer to any questions about Gallagher's former reputation as a ladies' man.

The bad news for Gallagher was the debut of a Web site, www.tomgallaghersucks.com bashing Gallagher's record in public office.

SINK'S SUCCESS: Here's a switch - a Democrat proving to be a fundraising dynamo. The best fundraiser of any statewide cabinet candidate in the three months ending June 30 was Democratic chief financial officer Alex Sink, who raised nearly $509,000.

Meanwhile in the GOP primary for attorney general, state Rep. Joe Negron's prospects against former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum looked a lot steeper as McCollum announced a high-powered fundraising team. Among them: former state party chairmen Tom Slade and Al Cardenas and top Tampa Bay GOP fundraisers Richard Beard, Robert Watkins, and Dr. A.K. Desai.

Adam C. Smith, John Frank, Joni James, Alex Leary and Anita Kumar contributed to this week's Buzz. For more political news check out www.sptimes.com/blogs/buzz.