By JIM RUTENBERG and JEFF ZELENY
CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Now that the Obama and Romney campaigns have closed their headquarters in Chicago and Boston, the attention of the political world is shifting to an office suite tucked behind the colonnades of the Biltmore Hotel complex here.
The suite is where former Gov. Jeb Bush manages his consulting business, his education foundation and, now, the (very) early decision-making process for a possible presidential run in 2016.
When former President Bill Clinton rolled through here while campaigning for President Obama, he speculated about Mr. Bush’s intentions with Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist and friend of Mr. Bush.
Navarro is from a rich Nicaraguan family that made themselves unpopular enough that they relocated to Miami in 1980.
It was no idle topic for Mr. Clinton, given the possibility that his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, could seek the Democratic nomination.
That's exactly what this country needs: the fresh thinking and fresh blood of a 2016 Bush v. Clinton race.
When Senator Marco Rubio of Florida held a strategy session here to discuss his own political future last week, the question of Mr. Bush, a mentor, hung over the room; a decision by Mr. Bush, 59, to seek the Republican nomination would almost certainly halt any plans by Mr. Rubio, 41, to do so or abruptly set off a new intraparty feud.
Mr. Bush is said by friends to be weighing financial and family considerations — between so many years in office and the recession his wealth took a dip, they said, and he has been working hard to restore it — as well as the complicated place within the Republican Party of the Bush brand. Asked this week about whether his father would run, Jeb Bush Jr. told CNN, “I certainly hope so.”
For now, however, “It’s neither a ‘no’ nor a ‘yes’ — it’s a ‘wait and see,’ ” said Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend and adviser to Mr. Bush. “It continues to intrigue him, given how much he has to share with the country.”
After Mitt Romney’s defeat by a Democratic coalition built around overwhelming support from Hispanics and other fast-growing demographic groups, many Republicans are looking for a candidate who can help make the party more inclusive without ceding conservative principles — and no one is the subject of more speculation at this point than Mr. Bush.
To his supporters, Mr. Bush is the man for the moment. His wife, Columba, was born and raised in Mexico. He speaks Spanish and favors overhauling the immigration system in a way that would provide a route to citizenship for people already in the country illegally but otherwise law-abiding.
... George W. Bush’s break with the populist right began midway through his second term over his support for a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants, which grass-roots activists labeled an amnesty plan. His push for immigration legislation failed.
Huh? George W. Bush pushed immigration in 2001 and 2004 as well.
This year, even before Election Day, Jeb Bush was warning of what he called his party’s “stupid” approach to illegal immigration. (Mr. Obama took 71 percent of the Hispanic vote, according to interviews with voters.)
“The day after the election, I started getting e-mails and texts from friends and others wanting Governor Bush to run and asking whether he would,” said Justin Sayfie, a Florida lobbyist who served as an adviser to Mr. Bush when he was governor.
The calls for Mr. Bush to step forward have grown louder since Mr. Romney told donors that Mr. Obama won the election by giving “gifts” of government benefits to Hispanics, African-Americans and younger voters.
“That stupid comment that came out of Mitt Romney’s mouth would never in a million years have come out of Jeb Bush’s mouth because he doesn’t think it,” said Ms. Navarro, the strategist, who sees Mr. Bush regularly at the Biltmore, a gathering spot for local politicos. “This election result has made Jeb Bush’s voice that much wiser and that much more needed for the Republican Party: What he’s been warning about all along proved to be true.”
Jeb Bush is now Presidential Timber not only because his wife is a Mexican failed jewel smuggler, but because he regularly drinks at the Biltmore with Latin America's oligarchs and right-wing exiles. From the Miami Herald in 2006:
Former Diplomat Ana Navarro, 34, feels the Cuba issue closely and is becoming a quiet, behind the scenes player. As a former ambassador from Nicaragua to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Navarro said she saw first hand how Cuban diplomats bullied the commission into leniency in Switzerland. She called them “thugs.” Her boyfriend, Biltmore Hotel owner Gene Prescott, and her have made the Biltmore the home headquarters of Cuba talk recently. At least five Cuba-related events have been held there in the last few weeks. Navarro is a member of the deep-pocketed US Cuba Democracy PAC. She says she also corners officials and diplomats from outside Miami who stay at the Biltmore. “There is not one that doesn’t come here that doesn’t get a dose of Western Hemisphere and Cuba issues.” Prescott is a Democrat and Navarro is a Republican, so they play both sides of the coin.
In general, the common idea in the media that Jeb will appeal to Latino voters because he vacationed three times at the ranch of the brother of President Salinas of Mexico, who was known as Mr. 10% Percent because of his immense corruption and who was then sentenced to 27 years in prison for murder, is ... interesting. It might even be true that Jeb's ties to Latin America's oligarchs will work as well for him outside of Florida as it does in Florida. But, then again, maybe not. For example, Jeb's friends, the Salinas Brothers, are really not that popular in Mexico these days.
Back to the New York Times:
After waiting his turn following his brother, Mr. Bush, who declined to be interviewed for this article, is not commenting publicly on the election’s outcome. But he has assured friends that he will step forward as the nation again grapples with how to address illegal immigration. He is co-author of a book called “Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution,” to be published in the spring.
His complicated political considerations include the question of whether the country would consider electing another Bush.
... However, Mr. Bush’s friends say, his last name is not his biggest concern. Aside from financial matters, friends said he is also conscious of how a run would affect his family, especially the political prospects of his sons.
Sons, not son? Uh-oh ...
Jeb Bush Jr., 29, is a founder of a political action committee, Sun Pac, formed to promote and recruit conservative Hispanic political candidates.
George P. Bush, 36, has filed paperwork in Texas in preparation for a campaign to become land commissioner.
There are two of them?
Be afraid, be very afraid.