The Tampa Bay Times – the newspaper with the largest circulation in Florida – has endorsed Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination, stating that Bush is “the most thoughtful, principled and energetic candidate in the Republican field.”
In an editorial Thursday, the day of the Iowa GOP debate, the Times asserts, “It’s time to stop treating the election of the next president of the United States like a game show without serious consequences.”
After what it calls “meaningless opinion polls and reckless rhetoric,” the editorial board claims Bush is the candidate for “Republicans fighting for both the soul of their party and the White House.”
“Bush badly miscalculated that he could become the presumptive Republican nominee by raising so much money last year, and his campaign skills were rusty,” the board admits. “But [Donald] Trump’s snide attacks about Bush’s lack of energy were never accurate.”
The editorial board urges Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina to follow its lead, even though it claims to have had “serious policy disagreements with Bush on many of his priorities.”
“We opposed tuition vouchers and unwarranted tax cuts,” the board writes. “We vigorously protested his unprecedented efforts to force a feeding tube to be reinserted into severely brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, which the courts overturned.”
Nevertheless, the board states:
Those disagreements do not diminish our respect for Bush’s intellectual rigor, leadership skills and genuine commitment to helping those less fortunate. He co-founded a charter school in one of Miami-Dade’s poorest communities, and after leaving the Governor’s Mansion he remained engaged in education policy through his nonprofit foundation. He speaks compassionately about fighting drug abuse, drawing on his experiences with his daughter. His interest in making government work to create opportunities for everyone regardless of race or economic status is sincere.
In its endorsement, the editorial board compliments Bush on his ability to “capably steer a large government bureaucracy.”
The board acknowledges that Bush’s candidacy has not gone in the direction anticipated – with his poll numbers having been below 10 percent since last October. Noting how Trump has “tapped into anger among many Republicans,” the board says, “This year turns out to be bad timing for an establishment candidate with a family legacy when disillusioned voters thirst for change in Washington.”
The board states, regarding Bush rival Sen. Marco Rubio, he is “the most polished orator in the Republican field,” but adds, “there is nothing to indicate he is prepared to be president,” and asserts he “rose to Florida House speaker on his charm and surfed the 2010 tea party wave into the U.S. Senate.”
“Rubio is a likeable opportunist with a persuasive sales pitch but a thin record of accomplishment,” the board claims, adding, “It has been Bush who has best challenged Trump for his ridiculous talk of banning Muslims from entering this country and for suggesting a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods that would ignite a trade war.”
Urging GOP voters to recognize this “pivotal moment” to “broaden its message and its appeal to women and minorities to ensure its long-term future,” the Times editorial board states Bush is the GOP candidate who can move the “nation forward rather than backward.”
The Florida primary will be held March 15.