By Terrence McCoy
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Through the charter school, Bush says, he met people "who have enhanced my life and made me a better person." And he adds that now he's more interested in talking about things people have in common, such as "faith, the moral order of things, and the lack of it in certain places."
Democrats have their doubts. "I think Jeb has honestly tried to reach out and understand better, but I'm not convinced he is a different Jeb Bush than he was in 1994," says Rick Dantzler, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. "I think he fuzzes the issues. He will not come down definitively on one side or the other of some of the bigger issues that are in play now. And that can only tell me there is some intent to deceive or to not be totally forthright about his positions.
"I'll give Jeb credit in this respect: Many times he says nothing in his answers, but he says nothing well."
Dantzler finds it amazing that Bush is portraying himself as a person who would have a moderating influence on the Republican legislature with issues such as abortion, school prayer, and gun control: "We saw some bills passed this last session that many people would believe were extreme, but because there was a Democrat in the governor's mansion, and because Governor Chiles is a person of courage and conviction, many of those things that passed did not become law."
Chiles himself wonders which Jeb Bush the public will see when the campaign is over, especially if he wins. Will it be the lifelong conservative or the sensitive populist? "That's what we don't know," the governor says. And that's why, Chiles concludes, Bush's campaign is so dangerous.