Jeb Bush left office four years ago, but Associated Press writer Martin Merzer thinks he may still be in charge of the state -- or at the very least still the most influential voice in the governing Republican party.
"He's become a legislative Wizard of Oz -- thunder and lightning and pulling the levers of power from behind the curtain," write Merzer.
Bush, who still lives in the Miami area, has kept a low public profile since leaving office, declining to run for U.S. Senate and claiming he'll never seek office again. Why would he when he welds such influence in Florida with out having to face accountability?
Merzer points to a number of Bush ideas that have passed the state legislature this year or are likely to, including the Crist-vetoed SB6 education bill, rolling back regulations on class sizes, school vouchers, corporate income tax cuts, and more.
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It's not surprising Bush has so much say. Both the house and the senate have strict term limits, and just as legislators reach power they're out the door with a new batch on their way in. Gov. Charlie Crist has become unpopular within his own party, and his hand picked RPOF leader was always unpopular with some and made to resign in shame. Senator Mel Martinez was a quitter, and George LeMieux is only temporary, to say nothing of the fact federal Senators stay out of Tallahassee politics anyway.
Attorney General Bill McCollum may very well be Florida's next governor, but his lack of charisma questions whether he can become the ideological leader of the state party.
Even Florida Republican golden boy, Marco Rubio, is a Bush protegee who's running for a federal position and isn't likely to diverge from Bush ideology much anyway.
So Jeb Bush it is. He may never have to face voters again, but for now, his behind-the-scenes power remains unchecked.