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Don Gaetz, surprise star of Jeb Bush opening acts


Much stagecraft went into Jeb Bush's campaign launch Monday in Miami, including such a lengthy line-up of opening acts that Bush's actual remarks took place more than half an hour late.

The final speaker to fire up the crowd before Bush bounded to the microphone seemed a surprising choice: state Sen. Don Gaetz, the Niceville Republican and former Florida Senate president who doesn't exactly appeal to any of the other groups of voters (women, Hispanics, African Americans) targeted by prior speakers.

But Gaetz delivered some of the best one-liners of the afternoon, attacking President Barack Obama directly -- and Bush rival Marco Rubio indirectly.

"After eight years, we've learned this much: The presidency of the United States does not come with training wheels. The presidency of the United States should not be the first management job you apply for," Gaetz said.

Then, he added this: "In Columba and their family, and in the cultures that they unite, and in the causes that they champion and care for, Jeb Bush is the new Florida. He is the new America. He is the new Republican Party.

"In this purple state that mirrors the diversity of our country, remember this: Before Jeb Bush, Republicans never won control. With Jeb Bush, Republicans have never lost control. Jeb Bush is the Florida Republican who can win."

Take note, Rubio. (And fellow Florida residents and presidential candidates Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee.)

Like a good campaign surrogate, Gaetz criticized Obamacare on Bush's behalf but failed to note his own position pushing for a Florida healthcare plan Florida House Republicans derided as Medicaid expansion. There was no hint of irony when Gaetz, 67, introduced Bush, 62, as a "new" Republican.

Gaetz is known to have a way with words, so perhaps his rousing remarks Monday should have been expected. But he turned a few heads on a day when national media and political consultants were watching -- a plus for a politician who has his sights set on Congress if U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller of Chumuckla runs for U.S. Senate.