As was shown by his endorsement of Carlos Curbelo on Monday, Jeb Bush is starting to throw his weight around in Republican primaries across Florida.
Even as he has drawn fire from conservatives on Common Core and for supporting immigration reform, Bush remains one of the most popular Republicans from the Sunshine State. Bush has also shown no hesitation in using his position to shape the GOP in Florida and support candidates he favors.
So far, Bush has made some safe bets, to be sure, in the 2014 election cycle. Despite his support of Bill McCollum back in 2010, Bush gave Rick Scott an early endorsement this time out. Bush also fell in line behind David Jolly after he won the Republican primary in the special congressional election in Pinellas County. Most of Bushs legislative endorsements, like his support of Fred Costellos bid to return to the Florida House earlier this month, arent exactly long shots.
Bushs endorsement of Curbelo is a bit of a deviation from this pattern. Republicans have high hopes for Curbelo to take down Joe Garcia in November and the Miami-Dade County School Board member is the clear favorite to win the GOPs nomination. But, even though he is a strong favorite, Curbelo does have a primary with respectable foes like Ed MacDougall, Joe Martinez and Larry Palomares-Starbuck. Bushs support only adds to Curbelos lead as the GOP looks to avoid a brutal primary and focus all its efforts on defeating Garcia.
But thats not the only contested Republican primary Bush has waded into. Unlike Garcia, in his new comfortably Democratic district, Alan Grayson appears pretty safe for November. That hasnt stopped Bush from endorsing Carol Platt over Republican rivals Jorge Bonilla and Peter Vivaldi as they fight in the primary over who challenges Grayson come November. Its tough to characterize Platt as a favorite either over Grayson or her primary opponents. But Bush endorsed her pretty early in the process, anyway.
More than seven years after he left Tallahassee, Bush shows no signs of going away. He promised to actively support Scott in this campaign and has thrown a few barbs at Charlie Crist already in the campaign. Of course, Bush also continues to remain a presidential possibility for Republicans come 2016 and has given hints that hell make an announcement one way or another about his presidential plans this year.
As he continues to ponder whether to follow in fathers and brothers footsteps with a presidential campaign, Bush remains active at the national level. On Monday, he gave a speech in Long Island which often backs Republican candidates with their votes and checkbooks even as New York remains deeply blue. But even as he tests the national waters, Bush continues to remain a major player for Republicans in Florida, as his support of Curbelo shows.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News.