Bush journey boosts profile


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives with Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, center, at City Hall in Phuket, Thailand, on Tuesday.

The Associated Press
Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 12:00 a.m.
Presidential talk renewed WASHINGTON - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has emphatically ruled out a 2008 bid to replace his brother in the White House, but his profile-raising tour of tsunami-wrecked countries has rekindled talk of a third Bush presidency.
Florida political experts and Bush family friends said they take the governor at his word - "I'm not going to run for president in 2008," Bush pledged in October - but believe the 51-year-old Bush is leaving his options open for a White House bid in 2012 or beyond.
"He's never ruled it out, and he's a young man," said Charlie Black, political adviser to former President George H.W. Bush, the governor's father.
Jeb Bush's trip with Secretary of State Colin Powell to Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka seems tailor-made for a White House aspirant looking to pad his resume.
Traveling with a press secretary and two security guards, Bush is getting equal billing at news conferences with Powell, the pair standing side-by-side at podiums or in trio with a foreign leader.
Powell typically refers to Bush in the first sentence or two of any public remarks, saying "we" are doing this and "we" will do that. Bush seems to take his cues from Powell - they even dress alike, wearing khakis and open-necked shirts.
The governor is deferential to Powell, calling him "the secretary" and, so far, limiting his remarks to how his experience with Florida's heavy hurricane season may be relevant.
He acknowledged, however, that the damage from four hurricanes last fall paled in comparison to the devastation from the tsunami's wrath.
"We had nothing compared to that. We had loss of property, disruption of daily life, loss of electricity, lack of water that lasted for days, in some cases weeks," Bush said Tuesday at a Bangkok air base. "But when you have 150,000 people who died over 11 countries, that goes way beyond what anybody's experienced in our own country."
Bush showed an empathetic touch during the hurricanes, increasing his popularity in Florida. Now, he has a chance to raise his national profile during the tour.
"He's dealing with foreign leaders and an international crisis, so I think it will stick in people's minds that he is a serious international player - if he wants to be," Black said.
Shortly before his brother won a second term, the governor said he would finish his second term in January 2007, "and then I'll go back to Miami and I'll figure out what I'm going to do. But it isn't going to be running for president, I promise."
When a reporter asked whether he could change his mind, Bush replied, "No! Why am I not believable on this subject? It's driving me nuts."
If so, it might make him crazy to know that some are still speculating about a presidential race in 2008.
"People can change their minds," said Matt Corrigan, a University of North Florida political science professor who watches state and federal politics.
Corrigan said two prominent Republicans considering 2008 campaigns, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, "are fairly moderate choices in a conservative party. Who's going to be the conservative alternative? Obviously, Governor Bush is a prominent name in that category."
But other political experts said the country won't be in the mood for another President Bush immediately after eight years of George W.
"I could see him running, but not in the near term," said David Niven, a political science professor at Florida Atlantic University. "I think he has to worry about Bush fatigue. He's young enough to sit out a few races and come back, just like his brother came back after there was a sense that the first Bush was all right, and the grievances had faded away."
Black, a Bush family friend, said the trick will be for the Florida governor to stay in the public spotlight.
"I think he could go to the private sector for a while, still campaign very actively for whoever the nominee is in 2008 and maybe come back someday and take a run at it," Black said.
"His name will still be Bush and, even if he's out of public office four years or so, people are going to say, 'Yes, that's the former president's brother, the guy who ran Florida so well."'

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