In battle of the Florida titans, advantage Bush


Accomplishments matter. Regardless of who ends up in the White House, accomplishments should decide who wins. Effort is a great thing, but is that really good enough to be the leader of the free world? Not so much.

Florida Republicans will want to look at this carefully as their arguably two most famous sons, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, vie for the party nomination for president (we can safely assume Jeb will run — go ahead and place your bets).

Great ideas can sound like an accomplishment, but they miss the important component of implementation. There will be a lot of chatter about the money battle as to which Republican candidate gets Florida’s financial support but, in the end, it is going to come down to who has accomplished the most as a public servant in the state, or, at least, it should.

In terms of years of experience, both Rubio and Bush are well matched. Rubio has been a public servant all of his life beginning as a commissioner for West Miami, then becoming a state representative and later speaker of the State House. His ability to manage his party and negotiate with Democrats was well honed in Tallahassee. This has served him well so far in his first term in the Senate.

In this category though, advantage Bush.

Bush has many accomplishments to show as governor. Despite eight hurricanes that crisscrossed the state in a few short years, he left Florida in robust shape. He can take credit for lowering taxes by $19 billion, saved $9 billion in a “rainy day fund,” signed the Everglades Restoration Act, created incentives to attract bio-tech jobs with emphasis in research at the universities, reduced the size of government by 6 percent and left the state with the highest bond rating possible.

Additionally, he transformed education so that every child would not be ushered through schools like cattle, through social promotion whereby students were promoted to the next grade because of their age and not their achievement. He made achievement the cornerstone of education as a means to better face life with the dignity and promise for the future that the young enshrine. This is strong list of accomplishments.

While the job of House speaker in Tallahassee is very important, as well as winning a Senate race, Rubio’s accomplishments as a leader thus far are few. Most can only point to one that he accomplished in the U.S. Senate, which is comprehensive immigration reform, a proposal he no longer supports. He received an avalanche of attacks from the tea party, and he blinked.

That is unfortunate; he could have been a champion. Conversely, Bush, his mentor, has steadfastly weathered the tea-party storm when attacked for his position on Common Core standards for education. Attacks by the tea party and, certainly, partisan Democrats are a campaign certainty.

Again, advantage Bush.

Miami will soon be viewed by the country as a boxing ring — albeit a fashionable one — with both candidates calling the city either Campaign Central or, at the very least, a significant hub. Florida as a whole will be turned inside-out, testing friendships and loyalties like few campaigns in the past. Those who like Bush generally like Rubio, too. Republicans do not want to make this choice, yet many already have one foot in one camp. Few will be allowed to sit on the sidelines.

Can Florida Republicans survive brother-against-brother, or mentor-against-protégé? Of course, it can — even though there will be a lot of empty pockets by the time the primary is over. Bush has promised not to disparage Rubio, and likely Rubio’s team will follow suit.

Republicans and Democrats nationwide wonder who Florida wants as the Republican candidate. If nothing else, it will make great theater. In the best case, it will highlight the fact that we have a lot of talent in Florida. If Marco and Jeb play this out intelligently and thoughtfully, as they likely will, Florida will come out the stronger for it.