Leaning into the microphone before a rapt audience of about 125 people, Jeb Bush related how he went through a midlife crisis after losing the Florida governor's race in 1994 and emerged a better man.
"I have been changed in the last four years," he told the group. "I started listening more."Bush had come to Temple Israel to address a gathering of Jewish Democrats, not exactly a support group for a Republican baring his soul. But in his second bid for the governorship, Bush, a Miami businessman and the son of former President George Bush, indeed seems to have undergone a transformation.
He is reaching "outside my comfort zone," as he puts it, to groups he might have ignored in the past, toning down conservative talk and staying away from divisive issues.
So while in 1994 Bush flaunted a hard-edge conservative stance by advocating cuts in welfare, locking up criminals for longer periods and dismantling the Department of Education, this year he visits schools and shelters for abused women to talk about raising public school standards, restoring "compassion" to child welfare services and extending a state land-acquisition program for environmental protection.
After losing in 1994 by the narrowest margin in a governor's race in Florida's history, to Gov. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, John Ellis Bush, 45, is determined to do it right this time and extend his family's political dynasty.