- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

MIAMI Gov. Jeb Bush handily defeated challenger Bill McBride yesterday, thwarting a concerted national Democratic effort to exact revenge for Election 2000.
Mr. Bush won by a comfortable margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
The governor received a call of concession from Mr. McBride at 10:15 p.m., and walked onto the stage of the main ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel at 10:25 to the strains of Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca" and the boom of a confetti cannon.
He was introduced by his father, former President George Bush, and before uttering a word, the governor approached the microphone and let out an exaggerated and animated exhale of relief.
In a five-minute speech, the governor promised a litany of good things for Florida education, economic growth and family support.
Above all, Jeb Bush said, "we will protect limited government and individual freedom in ways that you can't even imagine.
"I will not let you down," he concluded, and ended his five-minute speech with a flurry of "thank you" greetings in Spanish.
Mr. McBride conceded with a public statement shortly after the race was called for his opponent at 9:35 p.m.
In a brief statement, a composed Mr. McBride said that his campaign has "moved the agenda to the right place. We've made a difference."
The broadcast of his concession was shown on the two large TV screens set up on each side of the stage at Bush party central.
When Mr. McBride began to thank the Florida's teachers union, which essentially ran and funded his campaign, the feed was abruptly cut off to much Republican applause.
The race had appeared to be close until two weeks ago, when a disastrous final debate flipped the polls, some of which had been showing a dead heat.
Al Cardenas, chairman of the state Republican Party, said "never have the Democrats waged such a fight," referring to a concerted effort from the national party to unseat the governor.
Democrats hoped to take governorship as revenge for the 2000 election, when a victory in Florida put the governor's older brother, George W. Bush, in the White House after an acrimonious and partisan five-week legal battle amid ballot recounts.
Last night's coronation of Jeb Bush befit a president, with abundant bunches of red, white and blue balloons emblazoned with "Jeb" imposed over an outline of the state hanging from the ceiling, the walls and streaming up from the floor of the extravagantly decorated ballroom.
In the lobby, a vendor sold JebWare, a line of clothing and trinkets emblazoned with the governor's first name. Latin and salsa music boomed over the public address system as the crowd of 500, clad mostly in business attire, clutched glasses of Chablis and gin and tonics.
Predictions of a large voter turnout nearly 60 percent in some counties stemmed from the interest in early balloting. Up to 10 percent of voters in some counties went to the polls early in order to avoid delays.
But Mr. McBride suffered from an anemic turnout in Democratic strongholds in southeast Florida. In Broward County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin, between 45 percent and 50 percent of voters turned out rather than the expected 60 percent.
By Monday evening, Mr. McBride had resorted to negative campaigning, the same tactic for which he had criticized Jeb Bush during a debate in Orlando two weeks ago.
"Jeb Bush reached a new low using fake numbers," said a McBride ad that hit the airwaves Monday. "Jeb Bush: So desperate he'd say anything."
"This is the most negative Bill McBride has gotten," said Wayne Garcia, a Tampa-based political consultant. He said Mr. McBride lost momentum in the last two weeks as he wore thin a one-dimensional image as a prospective governor who would change public education.
"He had nothing else to back that up," Mr. Garcia said. "And it seems as if he thought he could sneak up on Jeb like he did on [primary opponent Janet] Reno. If that's what he thought he could do, that was his biggest mistake."

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