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Posted at 7:10 AM ET, 02/18/2011

The Jeb Bush primary

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake



Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a major player in the 2012 endorsement game.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush may not be running for president in 2012, but that doesn't mean he won't be a factor in determining the identity of the nominee.

Bush is not only part of the first family of Republican politics; he is also a widely respected voice on policy and also spent eight years as the popular governor of Florida -- a state that is likely to play a central role in not only the GOP primary fight but also the 2012 general election.

"Jeb Bush is the most important Republican not running for president," said former Florida Sen. George LeMeiux. "He is our party's thought leader on issues like education and broadening the party to Hispanics."

Given Bush's influence within the party, eyebrows were raised on Thursday when he was quoted singing the praises of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"Mitch is the only one who sees the stark perils and will offer real detailed proposals," Bush told a group of business leaders in Jacksonville. "He would be the anti-Obama, at least socially. He's not good on a javascript:void(0);teleprompter, but if my theory is right, that could work well for him."

It's not the first time Bush has sung Daniels' praises. In 2008 when Daniels was running for a second term as governor, Bush appeared at an event; at it, Bush said that he wished "we could clone Mitch and his style of leadership around the country".

So, is Bush tipping his hand when it comes to his preference in 2012? No, he insisted in an email to the Fix.

"I said nice things about other candidates as well," he wrote.

True enough.

For example, Bush and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participated in a short-lived attempt at rebranding the GOP in 2009 and a number of Jeb's top political operatives -- including the well-regarded Sally Bradshaw -- worked for Romney's 2008 effort.

And Bush and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour have known one another for years, and the former Florida governor endorsed Barbour's first run for governor in 2003.

Those familiar with Bush's thinking -- albeit not Bush himself -- suggest that he is leaving the door open to endorsing someone in the 2012 contest, but that no offer of support is guaranteed.

(In 2008, Bush endorsed John McCain on Feb. 11 -- almost two weeks after the Arizona Senator bested Romney by five points in the Sunshine State primary.)

With the endorsement door open, you can expect every Republican presidential candidate to make their way to Florida to court Jeb -- casting themselves as the natural heir to his policy-not-process-focused approach to politics.

The fight for the Jeb endorsement will be all the more heated given increasing chatter in Florida that the state legislature has shown no interest in moving their primary date back from its current Jan. 31, 2012 date.

If Florida stays so far forward in the calendar, it could -- again -- decide the identity of the GOP nominee. And no one has more more influence on Florida Republicans than -- you guessed it -- Jeb Bush.

No word from Kaine this weekend: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine will not announce whether he plans to run for the Senate until later in the month or early next month, a DNC official said Thursday.

Kaine has been considering a campaign for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Webb (D). Obama and Kaine spoke Wednesday about the possibility, and the president said in an interview that Kaine would be "a great senator." And Webb himself would like Kaine to run.

The former governor's delayed decision means this weekend's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond will likely by overshadowed by will-he-or-won't- talk.

Waiting in the wings is former Rep. Tom Perriello, who is deferring to Kaine.

Cuomo wants redistricting commission: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is trying to take redistricting power out of the hands of the state legislature. And if he does, it will matter.

The governor on Thursday released his bill, which would charge an independent commission with drawing new state legislative and congressional lines. Seven other states currently have some kind of commission in charge of the process.

The practical effects of the proposal could be big in New York, which will have 27 House seats next cycle (down from 29 after reapportionment). Commissions are lest apt to protect incumbents, and political parties aren't allowed to dominate the process even if they dominate the state's government.

That said, passing the bill could prove tough. State legislators aren't generally in favor of giving their powers away, and so far state legislative leaders haven't committed to supporting the bill.

Right now, control over redistricting in the Empire State is split, with Republicans clinging to a small majority in the state Senate. If the state legislature draws the map, the most likely outcome is that most incumbents would be protected.

Fixbits:

Former Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) is close to becoming a lobbyist -- a move that would make it tougher for her to run for the seat she lost in 2010. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he has reached out to Herseth Sandlin about seeking her old seat.

The Latino population in Texas increased from 32 percent to 38 percent over the last decade. The state will likely have to draw at least two new majority-Latino districts.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has endorsed Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) in the race for retiring Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) seat.

Republicans have a candidate in the race for outgoing Rep. Jane Harman's (D-Calif.) seat -- Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb.

Must-reads:

"How to slay a gerrymander" -- Michael Waldman, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Palin packs schedule with riches" -- Matea Gold, Tribune

By Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake  | February 18, 2011; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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