December 17, 2006


Bush's legacy as governor: a Republican revolution: Whether viewed by Floridians with reverence or disdain, Jeb Bush transformed Florida politics during his eight-year tenure, to the benefit of the Republican Party (BETH REINHARD, 12/17/06,

To size up Jeb Bush's political legacy, look no farther than the punctuation that followed his first name on his trademark campaign bumper sticker: Jeb!

The signature slogan captures the governor's atomic impact on Florida politics, for better or worse. He lifted the Republican Party onto the broad shoulders of his six-foot-four frame and into the stratosphere, sweeping up untold millions of campaign dollars, stacking hundreds of influential boards and courthouse benches, and galvanizing grass-roots activists from Little Havana to Panama City.

Ask his critics and, well, they'd like to take the punctuation mark after his name and put it at the end of a long list of expletives. They describe a man who wielded political power like a cudgel, clamping down on Democrats, strong-arming Republicans and seeking vengeance against anyone who dared cross him.

But whether his name is spoken with reverence or in a fit of anger, it's clear that Bush has transformed Florida politics and left an enduring legacy. The governor is leaving office with the highest poll ratings of his tenure, in stark contrast to the dwindling popularity of his brother, President Bush.

''This is akin to war history, where you have these larger-than-life characters who dominate a chunk of history in the world, usually through conquests,'' said Al Cárdenas, who served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida during the governor's first term. ``As a result of his leadership, we in essence accomplished a revolution.''

Not since Reconstruction had a Republican Florida governor won a second term, and a two-term Republican governor has never been followed by another. Gov.-elect Charlie Crist withstood the nationwide anti-GOP backlash last month partly because Bush had laid such a strong foundation. Under Bush's leadership, the GOP increased its dominance of the Legislature and Cabinet every two years until November, when the party lost a handful of seats.

Bush, his brother or father have appeared on every general election ballot in Florida except one since 1980.

Heck, they've only missed one presidential ballot since '80 and are likely to be on the next three. What's interesting is that the GHW's base was the Eastern Establishment, W's was white evangelicals, and it will be Jeb who cements Latinos into the Party.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 17, 2006 10:24 AM

Sorry OJ but I think the GOP and the country wants a time-out from the name 'Bush' for a bit.

Posted by: tps at December 17, 2006 11:19 AM

Not by '08.

Posted by: oj at December 17, 2006 11:46 AM

Don't forget Jeb's good looking son.

Posted by: erp at December 17, 2006 1:41 PM

erp: Otherwise known as Gorgeous George (and he is!).

Posted by: Buttercup at December 17, 2006 1:59 PM