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National Politics

Jeb Bush, Santorum added to RNC speaker list

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM
TAMPA -

After missing two of his party's quadrennial bashes in a row, former Gov. Jeb Bush will take the stage in his home state for a headlining address at this year's GOP convention.

The Republican National Committee announced Friday that Bush would join the list of speakers for the Aug. 27-30 event in Tampa. Additional headliners include Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

They join a slate announced Monday that includes Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Specifics such as dates and time slots are still up in the air. The Republicans have not named a keynote speaker. And, of course, the presumptive GOP nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has yet to announce a running mate.

While the selection of Scott has raised eyebrows — voters disapprove of his performance as governor by 52 percent to 36 percent, and he often appears uncomfortable in the spotlight — the selection of Bush was natural, some observers said.

"Jeb is an interesting character in many respects," said Darryl Paulson, a political scientist at University of South Florida-St. Petersburg. "He is the face of the Republican Party. He is without equal within the party.

"Obviously, there were a lot of people who wanted him to run, a lot of people wanted Romney to select Jeb as his vice president. One of his great strengths, and I would guess one of his roles, is going to be to broaden the appeal of the Republican base."

Bush did not attend the 2008 GOP gathering in Minneapolis, when brother George W. Bush was wrapping up a second term as president and languishing in job-approval polls. In 2004, he called off plans to attend the meeting in New York City, opting to stay home and direct storm relief after Hurricane Charley pounded Florida.

"There is a lot at stake for us in November and that is why I am proud to support Gov. Mitt Romney … and I look forward to being a part of his nomination at the Republican National Convention in my home state of Florida," Bush said in a statement released by the party.

Democrats say they're eager to see Scott speak at the convention.

"After all, who better than Rick 'Toxic' Scott to serve as the face of Florida Republicans while the whole world is watching?" said a news release Tuesday from Florida Democratic Party executive director Scott Arceneaux.

The Democrats said Scott and Romney haven't appeared together in what they tallied as 54 visits to Florida by Romney.

USF St. Pete's Paulson said he would not be surprised "if Florida had the trifecta" — a third Floridian to deliver the keynote speech.

"It'd be hard to imagine a better choice for a keynote than Marco Rubio," he said, speaking of the U.S. senator from Miami. "He's very charismatic, has great favorability ratings, and he's somebody who has tremendous appeal to middle-class Floridians as well as the minority community."

Rubio also has been mentioned as a potential Romney running mate. Bush has acknowledged lobbying Romney to choose Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House.


jstockfisch@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7834 William March contributed to this report

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