THE VILLAGES -- When Marco Rubio launched his presidential campaign in the spring, a lot of people wondered how he would ever emerge from the shadow of his mentor, Jeb Bush.
On Monday, as Sen. Rubio campaigned to an overflow crowd in a sprawling central Florida development loaded with tens of thousands of relatively new Florida Republicans, the more immediate question was how Bush might escape the shadow of Rubio.
“Bush was fine as governor but he just doesn’t come across as authoritative, like Marco Rubio does,” said Pat McKay, who moved to The Villages 10 years ago from Philadelphia.
This booming, overwhelmingly Republican stronghold of more than 100,000 residents spreads across 32 square miles of Sumter, Lake and Marion counties. Bush spent plenty of time campaigning here in the area’s early years, but he left office nearly 10 years ago.
“Jeb doesn’t seem to have any energy, no excitement,” said Sid Sack, who retired to The Villages a year ago from Washington state, while waiting for Rubio to show up.
“He seems kind of like a marshmallow,” he said of Bush, a contrast given that Bush was known as perhaps the most energetic and ambitious governor in modern Florida history.
“We need somebody new. I like Rubio because he’s young,” agreed his wife, Billie, who also likes Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump.
Rubio drew more than 500 people to a big meeting space and two overflow rooms, an appearance that underscored one of the biggest challenges facing Bush’s presidential campaign: Countless Republicans know little about Bush beyond his last name, and that includes his home state with its ever-changing electorate.
Photo credit: George Horsford/Daily Sun via AP