- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2015

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Monday cast himself as the D.C. outsider capable of shaking up the political establishment, vowing to take on what he labeled the insularity of the very “Mount Washington” where his family has been a fixture for most of the last 35 years.

Mr. Bush said he shook up Florida politics during his two terms as governor from 1999 to 2007, and said he’ll do the same thing in Washington, shrinking the size and scope of the federal government.

“We used to call this city ‘Mount Tallahassee’ because it was so remote from the people, so caught up in the settled ways of a comfortable establishment,” he said in a speech at Florida State University. “I was a governor who refused to go along with the establishment. I wasn’t a member of the club, and that made all the difference.”

The anti-Washington message has been popular in the early goings of the 2016 GOP nomination race, but political observers acknowledged that it is interesting for Mr. Bush to move in this direction given that his father and brother were part of three of the last five administrations.

Mr. Bush said he curbed spending and helped strengthen the economy. He said he balanced the state budget each year and earned the nickname “Veto Corleone” in response to him vetoing more than 2,500 spending bills that he said totaled more than $2 billion in savings.

In Washington, he said he would call on Congress to work on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, would overhaul military procurement procedures and ask for a line-item veto — a move his brother tried but failed to get done as president.

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Mr. Bush also pledged to hire only one new federal employee for every three employees that leave the workforce and to adopt a merit pay system for federal workers. He also vowed to enact a law that would created a six-year waiting period before former lawmakers can lobby Congress.

“It will not be my intention to preside over the establishment, but in every way I know to disrupt that establishment and make it accountable to the people,” he said. “The ultimate disruption of Washington is to reject, as I do, the whole idea of a government forever growing more, borrowing more, and spending more — beyond anyone’s ability to control or even comprehend.”

Democrats pushed back against Mr. Bush’s claims.

“What we have seen from Jeb Bush before, we will see again — greater income inequality, sky high debt, allegiances to lobbyists, and a failed economic agenda that benefits the wealthy,” said Christina Freundlich, DNC spokesperson. “Bush may have an elevated sense of his record here — but those who are paying attention know better.”

The DNC pointed to an analysis of gubernatorial report cards from the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute that said that “Florida general fund spending increased from $18.0 billion to $28.2 billion during those eight years, or 57 percent.”

“The basic story from the Cato reports is that Jeb Bush was a prolific tax cutter, but he let spending rise quickly toward the end of his tenure,” Chris Edwards wrote in the Cato analysis. “Like George W. Bush, Jeb was good on taxes, but apparently not so good on spending.”

GOP analysts, meanwhile, said Mr. Bush’s message could resonate with voters, but also said that Mr. Bush faces a different set of challenges thanks to his family legacy. “The electorate is so fed up with the mind-boggling government incompetence of the last eight years that each candidate is going to have to speak to how Washington will be different when they are in charge,” said Kevin Sheridan, a Republican consultant. “In Gov. Bush’s case he knows the family name is both a strength and a disadvantage. He’ll have to convince voters that his candidacy is not based on legacy, but more importantly paint a compelling picture of what a Jeb presidency will look like.”

Patrick Griffin, a Boston-based GOP strategist, said it is key that Mr. Bush distances himself from the previous Bush administrations and get defined on his own terms as “Jeb.”

“He has to go back and retell his own narrative,” Mr. Griffin said. “I think what is a smart about it is he has a good narrative to tell.”

He added, “If the only thing people know about him is he a Bush, that is not good, but if they know he is a Jeb who has more to him then his last name, then people are going to say, ‘Hey, there is more there than we thought.’”

Others were not buying Mr. Bush’s message.

Bush saying he is going to cut Washington’s spending is like Hillary [Clinton] saying she will be available to the press,” said Brent Bozell, chairman of ForAmerca. “Not believable.”

Despite the headaches, Mr. Bush also has benefited from his family name, including the recent announcement that his campaign and super PAC supporters had raised $114 million — more than doubling his closest Republican rival.

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