Campaign Trail Mix: Gov Race Heats Up

* Upshot & snapshot: While in town for something called the Assistance Plus Summit, Gov. Jeb Bush found time to submit himself to the Q&A crucible of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg. The likely upshot of his opening remarks on testing and reading and subsequent answers to education-related queries was this: precious few converts. From the mechanism and interpretation of controversial FCAT results to the debatable rate of increase in school spending.

What the governor did do, however, was remind attendees that it’s not just the ultimate connection and tons of money that makes him so formidable for re-election. Nor is it a dry sense of humor that can defuse antipathy toward the St. Petersburg Times .

Only Daryl Jones can touch Bush as a smooth talking, good-looking, bridge-to-his-agenda, fast-on-his-feet, wonkish-set-of-statistics-at-the-ready presence. But Jones, of course, will not be the Democratic Party’s nominee. At least for governor.

Before doing some drive-by sound bites for the electronic media, Bush posed for a formal photo. It was the traditional shot with the winner of that day’s “Fang & Claw Award,” which goes to the member who asks the toughest question. None, surprisingly, were about capital punishment or a certain Florida Supreme Court appointee. The winner was Darryl Rouson of the NAACP’s St. Petersburg chapter.

Rouson predictably asked Bush if he would appoint a black person to the Pinellas School Board to replace the recently deceased Tom Todd. Bush was predictably, politely — and appropriately — non-committal.

As for the fortuitous photo-op, expect to see the arm-in-arm, smiley-faced Bush-Rouson shot again along the don’t-concede-the-minority-vote part of the campaign trail. As one decidedly non-Bush supporter muttered: “The man is blest.”

*Tough on Terrorists? Jeb Bush took an editorial haymaker from Wayne Smith last week in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel . Smith, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in Washington and former top U.S. diplomat in Havana, took the governor to task over the nomination of Raoul Cantero to the Florida Supreme Court.

Smith didn’t criticize Cantero for representing Orlando Bosch, who is, pointed out Smith, “linked by the Justice Department to over 30 acts of sabotage and violence, including the downing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 with the loss of over 73 innocent lives.” He faulted Cantero for being an “advocate and supporter of Orlando Bosch” and calling Bosch “a patriot.”

“Do Floridians really want a justice on their Supreme Court who cannot distinguish an act of patriotism from an act of terrorism?” rhetorically asked Smith. America’s man in Havana under President Jimmy Carter then lobbed this one over the Bush bow: “According to President Bush’s own definition, anyone who harbors a terrorist or supports a terrorist is a terrorist.

“President Bush had said that one cannot pick and choose one’s terrorist friends,” added Smith, “but that is precisely what has happened in the state of Florida

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