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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 09/98: US midterms  
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EDITIONS
US midterms Friday, 30 October, 1998, 09:36 GMT
Jeb Bush: Third way Republican
Preaching the Third Way
Pensioner Dorothy Perry is the Mother Teresa of Liberty City, Florida's poorest ghetto. She is raising four adopted children, two born to crack addicts, after successfully raising five children of her own.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]An African-American, she is not someone one would expect to vote Republican. But Dorothy Perry is one of Florida gubernatorial candidate, Jeb Bush's biggest fans.

The new Jeb Bush, that is. Mr Bush, the younger son of former president George Bush and brother to popular Texas Governor George W, is a politician transformed.

Dorothy Perry i
Dorothy Perry is Libery City's Mother Teresa
Four years ago, in a previous run for governor, he came across as callous and mean spirited. Today his down-home style is an example to his whole party of how to escape their reputation for zealotry without abandoning their traditional philosophy.

"Jeb is a very unique person himself," Ms Perry said. "I think if more people would get to know Jeb Bush the man they would be able to accept him as Jeb Bush the politician."

Lessons learned

It is a measure of the political transformation of Jeb Bush, according to his supporters, that is likely to win him this election. Many political watchers say he is doing for his party what Bill Clinton did for the Democrats.

"I didn't emulate Bill Clinton," he told the BBC. "But I do admire his awesome listening skills which is something that I have had to learn. That's not something that God gives you. It's really important to listen to people."

For Jeb Bush, listening to people does not only mean hearing traditional Republican supporters. Mr Bush is campaigning hard for Democratic strongholds - African Americans, Jews and the elderly.

The sizeable Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Journal, endorsed him as a "mensch", a Yiddish word for a strong man who cares.

In Century Village, Florida's biggest retirement community that houses more than 15,000 people over 65, there was little fear that the Republican would take a scythe to Social Security.

"I have voted democratic for a long time but I feel this time I want to vote Republican because he is the best man for a job," said one retiree.

Jeb Bush
A kinder Jeb Bush
"I think he is an everyday person who thinks about the everyday fellow person - old or young. I think you could get a helping hand from him if you need it."

But most significant are his inroads with poor Blacks, a group that in 1994 he said he would do "probably nothing" to help.

African-Americans across the state say his "third way" brand of Republicanism is appealing.

"I think the Democratic party takes the African-American vote for granted," said Willie Logan, the former party speaker elect who was dumped for a white colleague.

"[The Democrats] have never had to deliver anything for our vote and they've come to the expectation that the black community owes them that vote. I'm not saying it's racism. I think it's an attitude. But it's an attitude that is unacceptable to me and to a lot of others in the Black community."

Critics, including his older opponent Buddy MacKay, say caring about these issues is a front.

"Jeb Bush has been here for four years. I've been here my whole life," Mr MacKay said. "I stand for the things that mean everything to these people. I stand for equality, affirmative action, You have to decide which is the real Jeb Bush."

The voters will decide on 3 November.

Links to more US midterms stories are at the foot of the page.


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