Roger Simon: Jeb says he doesn’t need dynasty to win

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What Jeb Bush’s presidential announcement speech lacked in grandeur Monday, it made up for in down-home simplicity.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, who made her (second) announcement speech Saturday amid the grassy splendor of Roosevelt Island in New York, Bush went to a college gym in Miami.

Jeb did not need to “reintroduce” himself to America as Hillary did. Though most people recognize his name, few have any idea of what he is about.

He has not helped that very much over the past few months. He has been raising large amounts of money instead.

He has also made a few videos, which have ranged from the simplistic to the embarrassing.

“America’s best days are in front of us,” he said, concluding one video. “And we are going to lead the world.”



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But on Monday, Jeb Bush had found a new voice.

“It’s nobody’s turn,” he said, disarming his critics who say he is running on his family’s name. “It’s wide-open — exactly as a contest for president should be.”

He spoke mostly in English but also in Spanish. The student body at the Kendall Campus of Miami Dade College, where Jeb spoke, is 66 percent Hispanic. And the Republican Party needs no reminding of how much it needs Hispanic votes to win in 2016.

“I will campaign as I would serve,” Bush said, “going everywhere. … I will take nothing and no one for granted. I will run with heart, and I will run to win.”

Bush knew how high the stakes were for this speech. During the past few weeks, there have been a series of bobbles for him, including four different answers about the war in Iraq in four days.

But he was extremely relaxed throughout his speech, resting his folded hands on the lectern and peering out from his rimless glasses. He wore no jacket, just a button-down blue shirt and gray dress slacks.

His mother, wife, children, grandchildren and sister were there, but George H.W. and George W. Bush stayed away, not wishing to overshadow Jeb.

They needn’t have worried. The most popular Bush owned the crowd without speaking. The crowd erupted in numerous ovations, but none so loud as when Jeb’s mother, Barbara, was introduced and she spread her arms out to embrace the audience.

They did not seem like a dynasty. They seemed like a family.

And that is the image his campaign has been working hard on.

Unlike Hillary’s (re)announcement, in which she ticked off an entire multi-item agenda, Bush stuck to generalities, but they were sometimes partisan, and some stung.

“The presidency should not be passed on from one liberal to the next,” Bush said with his tongue in his cheek. “We need a president willing to challenge and disrupt the whole culture in our nation’s capital, and I will be that president.”

Disrupt is a word those in the Bush campaign like. They use it in the modern sense: overwhelming progress, like’s disrupting the book business and Uber’s disrupting the taxi business.

Bush lightly hit on foreign affairs, vowing support for the “brave, democratic state of Israel,” but especially emphasized Cuba and whacked President Barack Obama for any plans to visit there.

“We don’t need a glorified tourist to go to Havana in support of a failed Cuba,” Bush said. “We need an American president to go to Havana in solidarity with a free Cuban people, and I’m ready to be that president.”

If he used the word president a lot, it’s because he grew up around an unusual number of them.

“(I’m) a guy who met his first president on the day he was born and his second on the day he was brought home from the hospital,” he said to the crowd’s laughter.

It was an easygoing, almost lighthearted day.

Jeb may have what the Hillary campaign fears most about him: the ability to reach out and bond with an audience.

Hillary’s husband had it, but she doesn’t yet. And if she faces Jeb in a general election, she is going to need it very badly.

Follow Roger Simon on Twitter: @politicoroger


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