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Jeb Bush Made Florida Great

Jeb Bush’s pragmatic, technocratic approach—married to conventional conservative ideology—to governance that made him such a successful Florida governor also made him a failed presidential candidate in 2016.

Jeb Bush
Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Giving JEB! His Due: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush was always viewed as the smarter of the Bush brothers. When George W. Bush wanted to run for governor in Texas against Ann Richards (a Democrat who had essentially been an institution in that state), Bush’s parents—the former President George H.W. Bush and first lady, Barbara Bush—insisted that he wait. 

In their eyes, the Bush namesake was much too brash and unproven whereas Jeb, the bookish younger brother of George W., was the future of the Bush Family when it came to politics.

Fate, it seems, has a sense of humor. 

A Tale of Two Brothers

After all, 1994 was the year that George W. Bush defied his parents and ran for Texas governor. The same year that his younger brother challenged the mighty Democratic political machine of Lawton Chiles. Like Ann Richards in Texas, Lawton Chiles was an entrenched political institution. No one could displace him. 

The bookish Jeb Bush believed otherwise. 

Yet, it was the undisciplined older brother, George W., who would prevail as an insurgent candidate for governor and the more disciplined, refined Jeb, would lose in 1994. 

Of course, fate can only play with a man’s destiny for so long. 

Four years after his defeat by legendary “Walkin’” Lawton Chiles, Jeb Bush ultimately defeated Chiles’ handpicked successor, Buddy MacKay, for the governor’s office. Once in power, Jeb implemented a sweeping set of policies that both modernized the backwater state of Florida and laid the groundwork for the massive successes of the state today. 

Jeb Bush took over what was once a solidly blue state in Florida and promised to change the political culture in Tallahassee. The state was hemorrhaging money under the Democrat machine that had ruled it for too long. Jeb Bush as governor changed that. 

He had a pragmatic and reformist approach to governing Florida that was highly effective. Jeb Bush brought people into his fold and maximized their contributions toward modernizing Florida. Because of that, Florida’s educational system was bettered, an unjust child-welfare system was entirely reformed in the wake of the Rilya Wilson tragedy, and Florida’s economy boomed. 

Yes, Jeb Bush Did Make Florida Great

There can be little doubt that Jeb Bush helped to make Florida great. I shudder to think how my home state would have evolved (or not) had the Democrats managed to hold power in the critical 1998 gubernatorial race. They were driving the state into the depths of despair, as much as California’s current governor, Gavin Newsom, is ruining his state. 

Yet, Jeb Bush’s pragmatic, technocratic approach—married to conventional conservative ideology—to governance that made him such a successful Florida governor also made him a failed presidential candidate in 2016.

Despite his incredible success as governor of the country’s fourth-largest economy (if Florida were an independent nation, it’d be the fifteenth-largest economy in the world), Jeb Bush was unable to win over the skeptical Republican base in 2016. Just as he had lost to Lawton Chiles’ entrenched machine in the 1994 gubernatorial race, Jeb had lost to the unorthodox Donald Trump. 

Go back to George W. Bush’s race against Ann Richards in Texas in 1994. The reason that George W. Bush beat the old battle axe was because he “out-Texaned her.” That’s just another way of saying that George W. Bush had more gumption. 

Therefore, Jeb’s older brother, especially when he was starting out in politics, was much more like Donald Trump in 2016. He was brash and unapologetic. Voters like that personality type in their potential leaders—especially Republican primary voters in the last few national election cycles. Jeb Bush is incapable of this behavior. It’s why, despite being the son of a popular former president (as well as the brother of another president) with lots of name recognition, Jeb Bush had a pathetic showing in 2016. 

George W. Bush proved his parents wrong: it was the less refined, more antagonistic brother who was able to have the greater political career while Jeb topped out as Florida governor. 

No, Ron DeSantis is Not Jeb Bush

As the 2024 GOP Primary gets underway, former President Donald J. Trump, who is running again for president, has been sniping at Florida’s current Republican governor, Ron DeSantis. Trump and his team fear that DeSantis is preparing to run for the Republican nomination against Trump and that the Florida governor might prevail. 

So, the Trump team has thrown everything at DeSantis—including claims that DeSantis is just a Jeb clone. 

Of course, DeSantis has governed similarly to his predecessor: successfully. Even Trump, though, in his recent Sean Hannity interview praised every Florida Republican governor since Jeb Bush for helping to make the state great (as a way of undercutting DeSantis’ claims to being the best qualified for the presidency). 

Yet, no one in the GOP should seek to be crowned Jeb Bush’s heir apparent. That is why anyone involved with DeSantis’ potential presidential run should be avoiding Jeb Bush’s public comments praising the current Florida governor. And to be clear, there are many differences between what Jeb Bush might have done as president and what DeSantis would one day do in the office—notably in foreign policy. 

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Whatever one thinks about Jeb Bush as a candidate, he was a great governor who helped to build the basis for the success that Florida is currently enjoying. We should learn to give Jeb his due. 

Oh, and as Jeb Bush might demure, “Please Clap.” 

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who serves as a Senior Editor for Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.

Written By

Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who recently became a writer for Weichert is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness and the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (March 28), and Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (May 16). Weichert can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.



  1. Jacksonian Libertarian

    March 29, 2023 at 9:39 pm

    Comparing RINO’s like the Bush’s to America First Republicans like DeSantis, is something Leftists do to unjustly smear America Culture.

    American Culture is the most Successful culture in history. 1st of the 1st World Cultures, the one all others had to emulate to become affluent 1st World Cultures.

    Leftist Culture is the worst of the Authoritarian Cultures. Leftist Culture has destroyed every people it has dominated. If there is a State or City in a steep decline, there is a 100% chance Leftist Culture is in control.

  2. David Chang

    March 29, 2023 at 10:58 pm

    God bless people in the world.

    My impression of Florida are Miami and National MagLab, but I hope that people in Florida don’t believe the great America or the great state, but trust God and oppose the atheism state of the United States by Ten Commandments. Let people in the atheism state learn to build their homelands which were destroyed by themselves.

    God bless America.

  3. 403Forbidden

    March 30, 2023 at 3:38 am

    Before george w bush became terribly successful in politics, he was a failure in many other things, be being a sort of a hunter biden character in the bush family.

    When he was young george bush started arbusto oil but never made a dime in profits.

    His dad had always bailed him out during critical moments and in the end george bush through wheeling and dealing got involved with the saudis and then in 2001 he saved the ben laden family when they got stuck in america after all flights were grounded after 9/11.

    As for jeb bush, trump called him low in energy and he thereby tamely fell out of the gop race.

    But Jeb would have made a better president than his elder brother

  4. ZaSu

    March 30, 2023 at 11:02 am

    I wonder how many wars neocon Jeb! would have us in today in addition to Ukraine?
    It’s kind of cute when the geezers of old-time days of Bush and Darth Cheney shares their memories of how great the era of endless wars to force the unwashed to like us and institute Jeffersonian democracy.

  5. Jim

    March 30, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    With the Dollar on the path of not being the World Reserve currency… the U. S. has to have physical products, merchandise to sell… and people in other countries want to buy.

    Only an America First policy of promoting manufacturing on American Soil, World Class products… will save the Dollar.

    The Yankee Spirit of cutting the best deal… beating the competitors…

    I don’t think “Bushism” (father, son, brother) can save America’s position… the “War Card” has been played… it was not the Ace the “interventionists” thought it would be.

    (Whether military or color revolution.)

    Does it have to be Trump? No. But is there another candidate who brings the policies without the egotistical, narcissist personality?

    I don’t know if that candidate is DeSantis… but it certainly isn’t a Globalist who dismisses the importance of manufacturing in America.

    We need a president who can be creative… in that Yankee Spirit I mentioned above.

    Frankly, beyond Trump… there is a Freeway of political room… “a running lane” but the Washington swamp will not be where this candidate comes from.

    In my opinion… prove me wrong.

    Trump… I sit back and see what happens… with trepidation… forces are at work beyond my control.

    Trump… do I support him? Don’t ask me because I don’t know.

    But if he’s the only candidate with good policy positions and I’m left with a sense he’s the only candidate who will carry out those policy positions… what am I to do?

  6. HAT451

    March 30, 2023 at 3:41 pm

    Jeb rode into the governorship on his father’s and brother’s name. He was an ok governor, but that does not make a great presidential candidate or president. In 2015-16, he tried to leverage his family name to become the third Bush to be president. His campaign was dead on arrival.

    Publicly most of his statements are in support of Republican policy positions, but in practice his support is of RINOs.

    We do not need any more RINO’s in politics attempting to preserve the status que, we need politicians with moral courage, wisdom, intelligence, and determination who have proven to put the America’s Marxist on the defensive, politicianly and culturally, in as well as rolling Marxist policies back. There is a very short list of such candidates, and the Bush family politicians are NOT on it.

  7. K Andy

    March 30, 2023 at 6:31 pm

    An exemplar of what is wrong politically in Washington and the Country for that matter today. Just another Country Club Bush.

  8. Scottfs

    March 30, 2023 at 6:58 pm

    Jeb! is a RINO, an open borders guy who is enthralled with Globalism and the Chamber of Commerce.

    He could not care less about America, as long as he lines his pockets with CCP money.

  9. Rick

    March 30, 2023 at 9:10 pm

    Brandon, you’re a buffoon. Get an education and get a real job.

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