Among the names of a possible running mate being bandied about to Mitt Romney, the apparent GOP presidential nominee, is a forgotten Republican leader with a fabled pedigree who some Hispanic leaders are privately pressing as a choice who could rally various constituencies.
Jeb Bush, the former two-term Florida governor, the son of a former president, the younger brother of another and the grandson of a former U.S. Senator.
“Jeb Bush would be a natural for Romney, bringing into play the Bush name, which is still popular not only with Latinos nationally but with voters blocs in the most critical states that he needs to win in November,” says Bill Orozco, a Republican strategist in Los Angeles.
“It avoids repeating the disaster of another Sarah Palin selection, and it would get the Republicans right into the campaign, making Barack Obama the focus between now and in the fall and not Romney’s selection of a running mate.”
In past, the Bush name has been magical among Hispanics. Jeb Bush, who is married to Mexican-born American philanthropist Columba Garnica Gallo, won 80 percent of the Cuban vote in his 2o02 re-election. His brother, President George W. Bush, won re-election in 2004 with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote nationally, dramatically more than GOP candidates had drawn before.
“Jeb Bush is charismatic — someone who, if you put him in a room, wins that room over,” says longtime Los Angeles Latino political insider Armando Soto Mayor, who got his start in Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential campaign. “Jeb is a Bush with a heart. He’s married to a Latina. He knows us. He knows the culture. He’s a friend of the Hispanic community.”
A running mate as popular as Jeb Bush is with Latinos would also keep the Republican ticket from having to constantly walk the tightrope between Hispanic voters and the GOP conservative base, say insiders.
Latino turnout in 2012 is expected to reach a historic 12.2 million voters — or about 8.7 percent of the national electorate — a projected 26 percent increase from 2008. That year, Obama won with the help of 67 percent of the Latino vote, which in 2010 was also credited with helping to save the Nevada seat of the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, against a spirited Tea Party opponent.
Jeb Bush, say GOP Hispanic leaders, also could bring to the Republican ticket what some found most attractive about Rick Santorum — the Catholic vote, which make up a third of the vote in big industrial states like Michigan and Ohio.
Bush converted from Episcopalian to Catholicism in 1995, and he is a Fourth Degree Knight of Columbus.
“The value that Jeb Bush could bring to the ticket is incredible — the Jewish vote, the woman vote,” said one former George W. Bush administration official who did not want to be quoted by name because of his current private sector position.
As a longtime supporter of Israel, Bush has always had a strong tie to Jewish voters, who delivered 44 percent of their vote in the 2002 governor’s race. That year Bush surprisingly also captured the white female vote in the swing-voting battleground of Central Florida’s I-4 corridor.