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Jeb fires up faithful in Jacksonville

More than 300 Republican grass-roots activists in Jacksonville erupted in loud cheers Monday as former Gov. Jeb Bush arrived for the second leg of a three city fly-around. Bush stumped with Attorney General Bill McCollum, who's in a dogfight with Rick Scott for the GOP nomination for governor.

Jeb is McCollum's not-so-secret weapon. The popular ex-governor can fire up the base and make Republicans realize what's at stake in the primary on Aug. 24. Many people in the audience said they hoped Bush runs for president in 2012, and a few even wore  red and white "Jeb!" T-shirts from his campaigns.

"Bill doesn't have to read a poll. He's committed to conservative principles," Bush said. "I want a governor like that."

Inside a headquarters in a large strip shopping center, the intensity of Republican support for Bush was matched only by the intense dislike many expressed about Scott, who was viewed here as an arrogant interloper trying to buy his way into power.

Activists wore stickers proclaiming support for McCollum and for John Thrasher, the area's state senator, state Republican Party chairman and Bush loyalist who is seeking re-election. Twelve-year-old Bobby Graves held a hand-made "Ospreys for McCollum" sign (that's the UNF nickname).

Bush and McCollum began the day in Miami, where Bush voted early on the first day that was possible. The two men then headed for a third rally in Tampa.

"Wow, Jeb Bush. He's really a great guy," said Betty Wolfe, 68, a retired CSX railroad employee who was sporting McCollum and Thrasher stickers. "And that Rick Scott, he gives me the creeps."

-- Steve Bousquet