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Florida's Bush draws a crowd: He's 'like Elvis'

By BILL ADAIR

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 2, 2000


PHILADELPHIA -- When Gov. Jeb Bush arrived on the convention floor Monday, he created a political traffic jam.

He had so many reporters, photographers and fans clustered around him that he could barely move. The mob blocked traffic in all directions around the Florida delegation.

Florida House Speaker John Thrasher said he was "like Elvis."

Mel Martinez, chief executive from Orange County, said Bush was on the floor for only three or four minutes but took 20 minutes to walk down the aisle.

Everywhere Bush went, he was greeted by governors, senators and delegates who wanted to shake his hand and pose for pictures.

The Florida governor said he arrived late at the Republican National Convention because he was working.

"I've got responsibilities I take seriously, which is being governor of the best state of all 50 states," he said as he began his trek through the Republican throng.

Bush went upstairs to do a TV interview and sit in his skybox. In an interview with Fox News, he was asked about the perception that the Bush family had long believed he had the best shot of reaching the presidency, not his older brother.

"I screwed up. I lost," he said, referring to his defeat in the 1994 governor's race on the same night that his brother beat incumbent Ann Richards in Texas.

Art Teele, a Miami commissioner, said he understood why Bush had stayed away.

"Jeb's presence on the floor totally distracts everything," Teele said. "Jeb wants to maintain a decorum and elegance, but we can't do that with him here."

- Political editor Tim Nickens contributed to this report.

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