March 13, 2015

Scott Walker sizes up Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush

via @adamsmithtimes

MANCHESTER, N.H. --- We sat down this morning with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is making his first New Hampshire campaign swing as a likely presidential candidate this weekend along with Jeb Bush. Naturally we asked him how he can compete against Bush, who appears to be raising immense sums of money, and about Marco Rubio's suggestion that, as a senator and foreign relations and intelligence committee member, Rubio has a key advantage over current or previous governors on foreign policy.

Walker on foreign policy: "I think (Rubio's) great at foreign policy and other issues, but I just think there's a difference. In my lifetime, the most significant president in terms of foreign policy was a governor -- Ronald Reagan. The most important ingredient in foreign policy is leadership."

On Bush and his support from GOP establishment: "We had Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney. If it's just whoever's next up, that hasn't worked so well for the Republican party in the past. ... Jeb's a good man. You're not going to hear me speak ill will of Jeb. He's a friend of mine, He called me two days before (announcing) his PAC, I think highly of him. I just think voters are going to look at this and say, 'If we're running against Hillary Clinton, we'll need a name from the future -- not a name from the past -  to win.' "

On Bush's fundraising: "Yeah, he'll have by far the biggest report. There's a lot of people who are loyal to that family because of an ambassadorship or an appointment or something like that, so those people are going to show up big on his first report. What we're hoping going forward are not donors of obligation but donors of passion, people who are passionate about the reforms we bring to the table."

--ADAM SMITH, Tampa Bay Times

March 12, 2015

New Hampshire GOP summit next month to draw Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio

via @learyreports

They failed to connect last weekend in Iowa, but Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have heard the cattle call in New Hampshire.

The Florida Republicans are scheduled to appear at the NH GOP's #FITN Republican Leadership Summit next month in Nashua. Rubio will appear on April 17. Bush's time has not been set. Candidates won't appear on stage together. Each one will speak and take questions from the audience, according to organizers.

Bush went to an Ag summit in Iowa last weekend but Rubio canceled, citing a family wedding.

Bush will be in New Hampshire this weekend, and his campaign depends heavily on the state.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

New hires for Jeb Bush's soon-to-be campaign

via @lesleyclark

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is adding staff to his likely presidential campaign, including a Wall Street investment firm director and a strategist instrumental in U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's landslide win last year.

The National Review reported last night that Bush soon will name Justin Muzinich, vice chairman of the New York City investment firm Muzinich & Co., as policy director. It noted that Bush announced last month that he was bringing on April Ponnuru, “a leading member of the reform-conservative movement (and the wife of National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru) as a senior policy adviser.”

The Democratic opposition group, American Bridge, criticized the Muzinich hire, saying his experience at a hedge fund “certainly won't do anything to help the perception that Jeb doesn't represent the values of the middle class.”

Scott Jennings, a Louisville, Ky., Republican strategist and former adviser to former President George W. Bush, is joining Bush's political action committee, Right to Rise, as a senior adviser, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports, noting that Jennings “would be in line for a senior role on the campaign, most likely as national political director, if Jeb Bush goes ahead with a run for the White House.”

In an email message to the Herald-Leader, Jennings said "Bush has a strong record of cutting taxes, protecting life and finding ways to reform government with solid conservative ideas."

Jennings, who ran former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's losing 2012 battle in Ohio, was a key player in McConnell's overwhelming win over Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes in last year's U.S. Senate race.

His firm, RunSwitch PR, handled the super PAC Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the issues group Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, both of which flooded the airways on McConnell's behalf.

March 11, 2015

Jeb Bush withdraws from remaining businesses


Jeb Bush has dropped his remaining business interests, freeing him from professional entanglements and potential conflicts as he prepares to run for president.

The former Florida governor has divested from the two Coral Gables-based companies where he still had ownership stakes, his spokeswoman said Wednesday. Bush sold his ownership stakes this month in Jeb Bush & Associates and Britton Hill. He had already resigned from other corporate boards.

“This was a natural step as Governor Bush transitioned his time and focus from running his business to increasing his political efforts on behalf of conservative candidates and causes,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said.

Though he has yet to formally declare his candidacy, Bush traveled to Iowa last week and will head to New Hampshire this weekend — the first two states to hold 2016 presidential caucuses and primaries. He has scheduled a visit to the third state, South Carolina, next week.

More here.

This post has been updated.

March 10, 2015

Billionaire environmentalist's PAC wants Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio to denounce Florida climate change 'gag order'


A political committee run by a billionaire environmentalist wants Miami's two possible Republican presidential contenders to denounce -- within 48 hours -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott's administration for banning the use of "global warming" and "climate change."

"Pretending a problem doesn't exist won't make it go away -- Floridians deserve real leadership on this issue," read identical letters to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush from the NextGen Climate political committee. "If you remain silent, your priorities will be exposed and you'll make clear where you stand on this critical issue."

The request is likely to carry little weight with Bush and Rubio. NextGen Climate, run by billionaire Tom Steyer, poured $16 million into the Florida governor's race last year to defeat Scott and campaign for climate-change policies, but Scott was still reelected.

Rubio has said climate change is real but remains skeptical that humans contributed to it, despite broad agreement among scientists that global warming has accelerated due to the burning of fossil fuels. Bush has not spoken about the issue recently but his spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal last month that he too questions to what extent humans are to blame for climate change.

Following the report by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, Gov. Scott has denied that any gag order exists but won't go into specifics. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that another Florida scientist was told to reword "climate change" in one of her studies.

WSJ/NBC News poll: Marco Rubio does well among GOP primary voters

via @learyreports

Some encouraging news for Marco Rubio in the new WSJ/NBC News poll, which find 56 percent of GOP primary voters open to supporting him.

Fifty-three percent of GOP primary voters said they could see supporting Scott Walker; 52 percent Mike Huckabee; Jeb Bush and Rand Paul both got 49 percent.

From the story:

Resistance within the party to Messrs. Rubio and Walker is far lower than for Mr. Bush: Some 26% said they couldn’t see themselves supporting Mr. Rubio, and 17% said so of the Wisconsin governor.

The good news for Mr. Bush is that he has nearly a year to reshape his image before voting begins, and none of his likely rivals shows signs of running away with the race.

In fact, he would begin the 2016 campaign in much the same place that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney began the 2012 race in which he locked up the nomination after a long primary slog.

Full WSJ story here (subscription required).

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 09, 2015

Jeb Bush Jr. to host Miami Beach fundraiser for 'young professionals'


Beach inviteJeb Bush Jr. will be the featured guest next week at a Miami Beach fundraiser for his father's likely presidential campaign.

The reception will benefit the elder Bush's Right to Rise super PAC, which is bringing in big money before the former Florida governor formally jumps in the 2016 race.

Bush Jr., the youngest of the governor's three children, has become the PAC's go-to guy host for fundraisers geared at young, professional Republicans. He headlined one such event in Washington D.C. earlier this month; other fundraisers are scheduled to take place this week in Austin and next week in New York and Chicago, according to an invitation obtained by the Miami Herald. The PAC has dubbed the four events over the next two weeks "March Madness."

The Miami Beach reception will take place March 19 at the rooftop of the Gale Hotel. The minimum donation is $100, with up to $5,000 (either donated or raised from other donors) to "co-chair" the event.

Among the co-chairs already listed is Luis Andre Gazitua, a local government-affairs attorney and lobbyist who also serves on the board of directors of the Maverick PAC founded by Bush Jr.'s older brother (and now Texas land commissioner) George P. Bush.

"I am proud to support Jeb Bush Jr. as he leads the Right to Rise initiative to engage the next generation of American leadership as his dad seriously considers the possibility of running for president of the United States," Gazitua told the Herald in an email.

In Iowa, Jeb Bush adjusts to campaigning in the selfie age

via @lesleyclark

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA — For Jeb Bush, a self-described introvert who hasn’t mingled much with voters since he won reelection as governor of Florida in 2002, the campaign trail may be a bit of an adjustment.

“I’ve noticed since I’ve started this journey that the whole world has a camera,” Bush mused as he answered a question about Internet access to a camera-phone wielding audience at the Pizza Ranch, a buffet-style restaurant in Cedar Rapids.

Earlier, he encountered one of the realities of the already-rollicking 2016 campaign season: immigration advocates confronted the bilingual governor about whether he would seek to repeal President Barack Obama’s decision to allow some young immigrants to stay in the country. They videotaped the encounter and sent it out via Twitter.

Twitter wasn‘t invented when he last ran. Camera phones weren’t nearly as ubiquitous. Selfies were not part of the culture. But if all that has changed, the need for retail campaigning in small, early primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina has not.

More here.

Politico: Florida Gov. Rick Scott might not endorse Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio

From Politico:

Florida might have four GOP candidates for president. But none might be endorsed by the state’s Republican governor, Rick Scott.

When will he endorse, and who will it be? Scott won’t say. But the governor is personally close to two potential contenders who have no personal ties to Florida: former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom attended Scott’s second-term inauguration in January.

What Scott’s actions have made clear, however, is that he’s starting to raise his profile nationally. At the same time, the once-unpopular governor is repairing some damaged relations with fellow Republicans in Florida.

More here.

March 07, 2015

How a charter school was born -- and Jeb Bush became Florida's education governor


After a bruising defeat in the 1994 gubernatorial race, Jeb Bush approached a well-known civil rights leader in Miami with an ambitious plan.

He wanted to open an experimental "charter" school in Liberty City, one of the nation’s poorest communities. And he wanted T. Willard Fair to help.

Fair, the president of the Miami Urban League, was skeptical. Some members of his inner circle suggested Bush was using him for political gain.

The two men met in Miami. Fair assumed it would be nothing more than a photo-op. But it ended up being a 90-minute discussion on the state of Florida’s schools.

"Jeb was genuine," Fair recalled. "You can’t fool me. I’m going to test you too many times."

Two years later, in the summer of 1996, a group of 60 students, donning crisp red uniforms, entered the new Liberty City Charter School. It was the state’s first charter school, and it paved the way for hundreds of others.

There’s no doubt that the experience in building the charter school helped Bush politically, softening his image in advance of his successful 1998 gubernatorial race. But it also sparked a deep interest in education policy that would define his legacy, both as Florida’s governor and later as a leader in the national education reform movement.

"It opened his eyes to aspects of urban issues that he hadn’t thought about before,” said Matthew Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor and author of Conservative Hurricane: How Jeb Bush Remade Florida.

As Bush defines himself as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, the story of the Liberty City Charter School is certain to draw attention. It’s a double-edged sword for Bush. Supporters can point to the school’s academic success in boasting Bush’s leadership in education. At the same time, opponents can point to the financial troubles that led to its closing in 2008 as evidence of Bush’s failed education agenda.

More here.