Elections

Jeb Bush hopes to reverse presidential fortunes with new book

pmazzei@miamiherald.com

Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses a gathering during a campaign stop outside Geno's Chowder and Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.
Republican presidential candidate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush addresses a gathering during a campaign stop outside Geno's Chowder and Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth, N.H., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015. AP

Jeb Bush has found it difficult to translate his accomplishments as Florida governor on the presidential campaign trail. Now he’s hoping his old emails will help do it for him.

His new book, Reply All, released Monday, covers Bush’s eight years in Tallahassee through the electronic correspondence the Republican exchanged with staff, friends and constituents over matters large (the death penalty) and small (the short-lived proposal for a state commissioner of barbecue).

Bush’s campaign hopes the book, planned nearly a year ago, will show off the workaholic politician they remember, the one who freely gave out his email address, jeb@jeb.org (he still does), and then hop on his laptop — and later his BlackBerry — at all hours to respond, revealing his dedication, emotions and sense of humor.

“I was about to fall in love for the second time in my life,” Bush writes in the book before a Sept. 1, 2001, email introducing him to the BlackBerry. He would eventually include the device in his official gubernatorial portrait.

Bush was ahead of his time in terms of technology, pushing the state from the get-go to put services and documents online and taking the unusual step of responding directly to about a third of the 300 or so emails he received daily, by his estimation. That contrasts sharply with Democrat Hillary Clinton, who in one memorable email as U.S. secretary of state asked for assistance with working a fax machine.

“I was digital before digital was cool. Now it’s commonplace,” Bush said when he announced the e-book in December. (It’s also available in print.)

That was before Bush was even a candidate — and long before his campaign started to sputter.

What was innovative during Bush’s time as governor seems nostalgic now. And that’s precisely where Bush, 62, has struggled as a presidential candidate: turning his executive state experience into a compelling presidential sales pitch.

His job has been made harder by his hometown rival, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who at 44 casts himself as the candidate of tomorrow — and who bested Bush at a GOP primary debate last week.

None of that tension made it into Bush’s book, however. Rubio comes up three times — including in what Bush called a “random note to a couple of staffers” on Oct. 3, 2005: “I need to get a sword for marco.”

Read more here.

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