Road Show

Want to know more about Jeb Bush? The machinations of Florida's Republican party? Vomiting? Get on the bus.

During a morning interview with a pair of zany DJs on a Melbourne radio station, Bush is finally asked a question he hasn't been asked before. If he becomes governor, and recently indicted boxing promoter Don King is convicted, would Bush consider granting King a pardon? "I don't think so," the candidate says. "I would have freed James Brown, though."

That Bush might identify with the Godfather of Soul is probably not surprising. Indeed there are those on his campaign staff who see him as a Republican rocker. "He has that rock-star kind of feel," Cory Tilley says earnestly, noting several young men and women who have tracked Bush from the speech he made after the radio show to a bowling alley on the outskirts of Melbourne. "What other candidates would have people following them like this?"

Perhaps a better question is: What other candidate would tour a bowling alley at ten o'clock on a Friday morning?

"Jeb, roll my ball," one elderly man pleads, his voice cracking with emotion, as Bush walks by.

"Oh, I don't have the right shoes," Bush answers and moves quickly away from him. Bush realizes that the bowling alley -- like any athletic endeavor -- is a potential mine field for a candidate. What if he throws a gutter ball or -- perish the thought -- slips and lands on his ass? In a political age in which symbols are often more important than words or ideas, nobody wants to hand an opponent a metaphor for their own failings or inadequacies. (Remember Michael Dukakis's little ride in a tank?)

So Bush moves through the crowd as quickly as possible. "Roll one, Jeb," another man calls out. Bush plays dumb, smiles, and keeps moving. But there are certain rules in politics that cannot be ignored. One of them is this: You never bite the hand that feeds your campaign. So when Joseph Fraumeni, owner of the alley and an important contributor, tells Bush he'd like the honor of bowling a frame with the next governor of the State of Florida, there is only one thing Bush can say: "Size twelve."

As Fraumeni runs to get Bush a pair of shoes, the camera crew that had been hanging on Bush's every move this morning begins to set up for the bowling shot. But before they can get into place, Alex Castellanos steps in. No film, he tells them.

Sliding into the multicolored bowling shoes, Bush is tense. "These shoes have been here a while," he says, forcing a smile. He picks out a ball and follows Fraumeni to the lane of honor. Photographers scurry down the gutters so they can face Bush and capture the moment. He raises the ball to his chin, takes three large steps, and lets it fly. The ball moves dangerously close to the right gutter before slamming into two pins. "The two on the far right," Castellanos says, making a little political joke. Bush gets a fresh set of pins for his second ball, which plows straight down the middle of the lane, shattering everything in its path for a strike. He decides to quit while he's ahead, and sits right down to take off his shoes. "Did you see that strike?" he asks, smiling. "There are a lot of bowlers out there who vote."

Tom Feeney then proceeds to knock down the same two pins Bush had nailed with his first ball. But rather than resetting the pins, Feeney will try to pick up the spare A as good a job description as any for the lieutenant governor. However, he knocks only one more pin off the right edge of the set. "It's my role to make sure we stay to the right," he laughs.

Thirty-six-year-old Feeney knows his place in this campaign. More conservative than his running mate, he has been called Jeb Bush's Dan Quayle. "There were two things said about Quayle that nobody who knows me has said about me," Feeney counters. "One was that he stepped on his tongue while he was talking; in other words, that he wasn't terribly articulate. And the other was that he wasn't very bright, that Marilyn was the brains of the family. Well," he smiles, "to some extent Ellen is the brains in our family. I'm not denying that. [Ellen Feeney is a chemical engineer at the Kennedy Space Center.] But even my colleagues in the House will tell you that they think I am one of the best debaters. They will also tell you I am more a policy wonk than anybody in either the Senate or the House."

Feeney opposes abortion under all circumstances, even in the event of rape and incest, except where it would save the life of the mother. He opposes condom distribution in schools. And like Bush, he opposes any specific new laws to protect the civil rights of gays, and believes that homosexuality in itself is wrong. "But I also believe, without getting into theology, that the last person who was perfect is about 2000 years old," he adds. "In my religion, you can talk about the sin without hating the sinner."

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