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Jeb Bush walks political tightrope over electors

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- In the days leading up to the presidential election, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush promised his brother, Republican nominee George W. Bush, that he would nail down Florida's 25 electoral votes -- a promise on which he could still deliver.

But with court challenges pending in Tallahassee and Washington to Bush's claim on Florida, that possibility has the Florida governor walking a political tightrope.

Gov. Jeb Bush
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has made it clear he would consider signing a bill naming the state's electors  

The Florida Legislature is poised to hold a special session to consider naming a slate of electors on their own. With a strong Republican majority in both houses, those electors are likely to be pledged to George W. Bush.

"On the one hand, he's going to be criticized if he's involved," Florida State University analyst Lance deHaven-Smith said. "People are going to say, 'Oh, he's helping his brother, this isn't right.'

"On the other hand, if he's not doing something, the Republican side is going to be saying, 'Where's Jeb? He was supposed to deliver this state, now he's just sitting back.' So he's in a 'danged if you do, danged if you don't' situation."

Under Florida law, if a bill sits on the governor's desk for seven days, it automatically becomes law. But with lawmakers' go-ahead with a special session, Jeb Bush has made it clear he would consider signing a bill naming electors.

"Depends on what the bill is that would be presented to me. I can't pass judgment on legislation until I see it," Bush said Thursday. "But if the question is, if the bill is acceptable, would I sign it rather than allow it to become law without my signature -- yeah, I'd sign it."

Democrats pounced on the statement, accusing the nominee's brother of directing the legislative move.

"Governor Jeb Bush has been the director, and he's finally stepped out in front of the curtains, and it's quite clear that this has been an orchestrated effort on behalf of the George Bush campaign," said Lois Frankel, the Democratic minority leader in the state House.

But the governor's allies say Bush is not running the legislature, he's simply doing his job -- running the state.

"If he decides to sign it, there's nothing wrong with that," House Majority Leader Mike Fasano said. "He's doing it not as the brother of George W. Bush, but as the governor of the state of Florida and representing the millions of people who voted on November 7."

Republicans point out Bush doesn't always agree with the Florida Legislature, and analysts say Republican legislators tend to be more conservative than the governor. Bush needs to please a statewide constituency with nearly 500,000 more Democrats than Republicans.

And Jeb Bush has his own future to consider: He's up for re-election in 2002, and his chances could be threatened if he's seen as supporting a bill that would make his brother president.


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Friday, December 1, 2000

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