End Of The Bush Eraby Palm Beach Post Staff | September 8th, 2006
HIALEAH — Florida Republicans saw the close of the Jeb Bush era in a small Cuban restaurant Thursday just an hour before lunch.
But the moment was clear. Gov. Bush, who for 12 years has dominated the Florida Republican Party, stood before the packed crowd in Chico’s and, after a few brief remarks, said, “I would like to introduce my friend, the next governor of the state of Florida, Charlie Crist.”
Then as Bush moved to the back of the stage, the crowd began chanting, “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” Some in the largely Cuban-American crowd used the Spanish “Carlito!”
It was the first time the two men had shared a stage since Crist won the party’s nomination for governor Tuesday and became the state party’s de facto leader.
Afterward, Bush was asked by a reporter if he believed this moment on stage marked the transition of the Republican Party from him to Crist.
“I’m walking out. That’s right,” Bush said.
And how did he feel standing in the background for the first time?
“It feels good. I’m totally comfortable with it.”
The tough part is ahead, the governor said.
“I’ve already gone through the melancholy part of this. My problems are going to come when I’m not serving as governor.”
For now, Bush will concentrate on helping Crist win the race against Democratic nominee Jim Davis, a Tampa-area congressman who has vowed to dismantle many of the programs Bush has established during his eight years as governor.
Bush showed Thursday just how aggressive he plans to be in defending his record and attacking Davis. He called Davis one of the “least effective” members of Congress and said, “Name one thing that Jim Davis has done as a congressman.”
Crist must pick a running mate by 5 p.m. Thursday. His campaign has been vetting potential candidates for weeks.
Bush said he gave Crist this advice: “Assume in the selection of a running mate that you are going to work with that person for four or eight years, and you have to be comfortable with that person, and that person has to add value to the office.”
As for those who would advise Crist that he should use demographics or geography to make his choice, Bush said, “I think all of that is secondary, to be honest with you. I think it’s overstated. Better to find somebody that you are personally compatible with, that you are ideologically comfortable with.”
After shaking hands with the crowd, Bush and Crist climbed into a black sport utility vehicle. Bush took his customary spot in the front passenger seat. Crist sat in the back.
The two were on their way to Orlando and Jacksonville, where Crist once again would take center stage.