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Bob Sparks: Jeb Rubio forced to adjust to Jeb Bush's timetable

Political junkies, reporters and columnists should thank Jeb Bush. His sooner-than-expected semi-announcement of a run for president accelerated the run for the White House.

While a few potential opponents likely spit out their morning coffee upon learning of Bush’s move, newshounds and consultants were overjoyed. Instead of endless January speculation stories, some substance and actual conflict can now fill column inches, cable network time and computer screens.

As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Storytelling often involves conflict, and politicians provide an interesting cast of real-life characters. With the Oval Office representing an “open seat” in 2016, Democrats should have their share of stories to tell (or avoid) as well, but so far nothing. Hillary Clinton vs. Joe Biden doesn’t hold the intrigue of Jeb Bush vs. fill in the blank.

A recent public back-and-forth between U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul on Cuba policy takes on new meaning within the context of presidential politics. Mitt Romney is said to be on the verge of jumping in but did not declare at the Republican National Committee meeting last week in San Diego.

Romney’s head may replace Bush’s on the Whack-A-Mole board for now (especially with Paul), but more is coming. As if on cue, a Washington Post story revealed Romney and Bush are “hardly chummy.”

The biggest conflict story is waiting to be told should Rubio decide to take the plunge. Bush vs. Rubio – mentor vs. mentee – could dominate the chatter throughout the political world. The Florida economy would certainly see the benefit of news media flocking to our state.

But will Rubio really run? Rumors of his disenchantment with Washington have circulated for months, making a presidential run more than idle chatter. Some talk of his running instead for governor in 2018 has begun.

His frustration is understandable. Trying to operate in Harry Reid’s Senate has tried the patience of even some of the Democrats in addition to all of the Republicans.

He realizes he would be in a contest with Bush for the same donors in Florida. For those who have never before given to him outside of Florida, the Bush national fundraising machine is more than formidable.

Rubio might also find things a bit more pleasant as a member of the majority in the U.S. Senate. Should he ultimately decide to run, there is one thing of which we can be certain: Any campaign with Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in it will deal with substance.

Both are policy wonks and would present reasons to vote for them and not exclusively point out baggage held by other candidates. Education and immigration policy would be at the top of the list.

Unfortunately, the coverage of campaigns has fallen into analysis of poll-driven horse races. Who said something stupid today? Who was arrested for underage drinking 25 years ago? How will this affect his poll numbers?

It’s too bad that wedge issues such as religion and reproductive rights can drown out issues that affect everyone such as jobs, the economy and energy independence. Substance is further needed from serious candidates to address educational accountability and the drug cartel-controlled borders.

Bush has caused the two dozen potential Republican candidates to speed up their decision-making process. This will thankfully cause some on the Republican side to come to the obvious conclusion they have no earthly chance to win.

We can be confident it will prevent the circus-style GOP debates with nearly as many candidates on stage as there are people in the audience. Thank you again, Jeb.

While Romney seems about to get in, Paul Ryan is the first major player to say he’s out. A senior Republican operative tells me that Rand Paul has already assembled a major-league campaign infrastructure. He will be forced to announce soon, and take some fire as well as give it, before funds and other top people go elsewhere.

This year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) takes place in a little over one month in suburban Washington. CPAC has turned into a gathering of younger conservatives, but it is a must for anyone seeking the White House.

Assuming he will speak this year, it will be interesting to see the reaction received by Bush. Rubio is a CPAC darling. So, too, is Paul who mixes his own popularity and followers with those he inherited from his father, Ron. Dr. Ben Carson is also rising to CPAC elite status.

Serious talk about presidential politics this early in the election cycle was unexpected, but welcomed. Since Bush announced the formation of the Right to Rise Political Action Committee, the landscape has changed.

Now, if only U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren would jump into the race for the Democrats just to make things even more exciting. We would thank her later.

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee.

Written By

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at and Twitter @BobSparksFL.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.
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