Jeb Bush has said that this was his “window of opportunity” to run for president.
Instead, the former Florida governor is on stage tonight to speak for former Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, in a bellwether county that has voted the way Florida has — Florida, the biggest swing state of all — since the 1960s. No one has won the presidency without this state”s support for 88 years.
“Welcome to Florida! Bienvenido a Florida!” said the bilingual former governor.
“This election is about the future of this nation,” he is saying. “We can shape that future with what we do here, with what we do Nov. 6.”
He is talking a lot about educational reform. Bush first won the governor’s office in 1998 with a proposal for an “A-Plus Plan” for education — steering state money to schools whose students perform well. He won that in the Legislature. In 1999, he helped ward off an attempt by Ward Connerly to place an anti-affirmative action initiative on Florida’s ballot with an executive order decreeing that the top-20 high school students would gain state university admission. Both plans were controversial.
He left office at the end of 2006 with a 65-percent approval rating.
“We must have high academic standards that are benchmarked to the best in the world,” Bush is saying tonight. “All kids can learn. Governor Romney believes it, and the data proves it. While he was governor, Massachusetts raised standards and today their students lead the nation in academic performance.”
“Here in Florida in 1999, we were at the bottom of the nation in education,” Bush is saying. “Today, more students are reading on grade level, passing rigorous college prep courses and graduating from high school. And perhaps most exciting, those traditionally left behind are showing the greatest gains.”
While citing a number of Republican governors’ interest in educational reform, including Romney’s, Bush tonight is saying:
“Remember this: Our future as a nation is at stake. Fact is, this election is not about just one office. It is about one nation. If we want to continue to be the greatest nation on the planet, we must give our kids what we promise them: An equal opportunity. That starts in the classroom. It starts in our communities. It starts where you live. And it starts with electing Mitt Romney the next President of the United States.”
This, Bush has concluded, is Romney’s window.