"Jeb is gone!"
So yelped Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe last week as he declared it the No. 1 goal of his party to defeat Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. "There wont be anything as devastating to President Bush as his brothers losing in Florida," McAuliffe told the New York Times.
McAuliffes strategy: First, defeat Jeb to take revenge on the Bush brothers for Al Gores narrow loss of Florida, after repeated recounts, in the last presidential election. Then use Floridas governorship as a tool for winning the state in the next presidential election. "I cannot tell you the impact of us having the governor of Florida heading into the 04 presidential election," said McAuliffe.
To this end, the Democrats brought their biggest stars to Florida for the last days of the campaign. Bill Clinton came. Al Gore came. Jesse Jackson came. Al Sharpton came. They even brought in rock star Jimmy Buffett-poet laureate of statutory rape and rum-to transform rallies for Democratic challenger Bill McBride into a political opera buffo.
The result was all tragedy for the Democrats: Jeb rocked and rolled to a 56% to 43% victory.
Still, the campaign did not turn on what the Democrats did. It turned on what Jeb did not do. Namely, he did not run to the middle. He ran right-and stayed right.
The key issue was containing escalating spending for public schools, a subject Republicans have fled from recently for fear of being labeled anti-education. Amendment 9 on Floridas ballot called for sharply limiting public-school class sizes (i.e., only 18 children per class in kindergarten through 3rd grade). Implementing the initiative, Bush estimated, would cost up to $29 billion.
Jeb, who favors tuition vouchers for private and religious schools, and who promoted homeschooling during the campaign, opposed the amendment. It would require an increase in state taxes, he said, which he had cut by $6 billion and intended to keep down.
McBride, who opposed tuition vouchers and dismissed homeschooling as a luxury for families with "economic wherewithal," favored the amendment. But in a campaign debate when NBCs Tim Russert asked him how he could pay for it without raising taxes, McBride was flummoxed. His credibility crashed; Bushs soared.
Amendment 9 won. But it did not get as many votes as its No. 1 opponent (also known as the Democratic Partys No. 1 target).
This was not the only courageous conservative stand Jeb took in the campaign. He also flouted the recent Republican strategy of running away from hard social issues involving abortion and homosexuality.
Ten days before the election he went to a church in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County and declared "life is precious" whether its an "unborn child or an elder that is frail." Two days before the election he went to another church, and said: "I believe in the sanctity of innocent life from the unborn to the end. Its important for people in public life to uphold life. Its God-given, divinely given."
Jeb was equally outspoken on the question of homosexual adoption. Lesbian former talk show host Rosie ODonnell made an issue this year of a Florida law, one of only a few nationwide, that bans homosexuals from adopting children. The American Civil Liberties Union has gone to the federal courts trying to overturn the ban. McBride took the side of ODonnell and the ACLU, saying the law is "not the American way."
In an October 15 debate, Jeb was asked if homosexuals should be prohibited from adopting. "I believe they should," he said. "If youre going to have permanency, it should be with a loving couple that is man and wife. That is the law of the land, its in the courts, but I also believe that personally."
"I do not believe that gay couples should adopt children," he said.
Jeb never hesitated or retreated on this issue.
It takes moral courage in America today to stand against the demands of the homosexual lobby. Most Americans know in their bones that the Almighty intended children to be raised by a mother and a father, and that it is a form of child abuse to place a young person in the custody of homosexuals posing as parents. But a dwindling number of politicians have the guts to state this plainly and face certain retribution from a morally corrupt liberal cultural elite of which the homosexual lobby is an integral part.
Jeb did-and became the first Republican ever re-elected governor of Florida. The Republicans could learn a lesson from his leadership. Terry McAuliffe sure did.