Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush shores up support from top Florida Republicans ahead of presidential launch

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who spoke to reporters Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, has secured the support of top Florida Republicans in advance of his 2016 presidential campaign launch.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who spoke to reporters Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, has secured the support of top Florida Republicans in advance of his 2016 presidential campaign launch. AP

Jeb Bush will gain endorsements Friday from a host of top Florida Republicans, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

Bush will also be endorsed by 11 of the state’s 17 Republican members of the U.S. House, including all three Cuban-American lawmakers from Miami.

The endorsements, obtained first by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times, come as Bush prepares for his official announcement on Monday in Miami, home also to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who has emerged as a strong candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

With people beginning to talk up a Sunshine State showdown between Bush and Rubio, the list is a way for Bush to show off the depth and geographical range of his support.

Bondi, Putnam and Atwater plan to attend the event as do some of the congressional members, subject to duties in Washington.

They are: Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor; Vern Buchanan of Sarasota; Ander Crenshaw of Jacksonville; Carlos Curbelo of Miami, Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami; David Jolly of Indian Shores; Jeff Miller of Chumuckla; John Mica of Winter Park; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami, Dennis Ross of Lakeland; and Daniel Webster of Winter Garden.

Some of the endorsers had already publicly backed Bush. Bondi attended one of his fundraisers in February in Tampa, and Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen co-hosted one for him last month in Sweetwater.

“Jeb is a true conservative leader of unwavering principle, faith, and integrity, and he has my full support,” Webster said. “As governor of Florida, he led our state’s economy into the 21st century by shrinking government, growing jobs and cutting taxes. America needs Jeb’s proven, conservative leadership.”

Said Curbelo: “Jeb Bush’s executive leadership experience both as governor of Florida and in the private sector make him exceptionally qualified to renew America’s economic promise and restore our leadership role in the world. From a very young age, Jeb Bush has stood strong for the Republican Party and its principles, and I am proud to stand with him today.”

While the value of endorsements can be overstated, they could be valuable if Bush and Rubio are still in the race when Florida’s primary arrives next March 15. CNN said this week it plans to hold a debate in the state on March 10.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has yet to side with any of the contenders in the crowded GOP field. He is personally closer to some hopefuls from outside the state, such as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, than he is to Bush and Rubio.

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