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Jeb Bush takes no prisoners — or wafflers

in Statewide by

The polygamy of 2012’s Republican presidential primary — where big-money donors hedged their bets as almost every candidate in the field took their turn as the frontrunner — will not be brooked by Jeb Bush in 2016. In fact, according to Michael Barbaro and Maggie Haberman in The New York Times, Jeb’s pitch to donors includes a caveat: if you’re on Team Bush early, you’ll be rewarded early. If not…:

The prestigious consulting firm, known for its close ties to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, was orchestrating an extensive effort to remake his image and prepare him for the 2016 presidential campaign.

But that was no deterrent for Jeb Bush. His team hired the firm anyway and quickly made clear it wanted undivided allegiance. The company, FP1 Strategies, soon severed ties with Mr. Perry, startling his staff.

Mr. Bush has vowed to run a “joyful” presidential campaign free from the seamier sides of party politics, projecting the air of a cerebral man almost effortlessly drawing together Republicans eager to help him seek the White House. But behind the scenes, he and his aides have pursued the nation’s top campaign donors, political operatives and policy experts with a relentlessness and, in the eyes of rivals, ruthlessness that can seem discordant with his upbeat tone.

This “ruthlessness” seems to go for everyone Bush’s campaign seeks to take on, including world-class foreign policy advisors:

Robert B. Zoellick, a well-known foreign policy expert, told friends he intended to advise multiple candidates, like Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, in the early stages of the race. Mr. Bush wanted something else, asking for his “sole support,” Mr. Zoellick said. A surprised Mr. Zoellick granted it, ending his relationships with everyone else.

Caught off guard, advisers to Mr. Christie, who had identified Mr. Zoellick as their own adviser when talking to supporters, bristled last week when Mr. Bush delivered a speech containing Zoellick-inspired language similar to what Mr. Christie had employed in the past.

Perhaps Bushworld will paint itself into a corner and wish later it had been more ecumenical when it comes time to make deals about floor delegates, VPs and Cabinet posts. But as of now, one thing’s for sure:

Mr. Bush does not take maybe for an answer.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at

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