Jeb's---Publicity machine in full swing

Sunday, August 26, 2001 Publicity machine in full swing

As Gov. Jeb Bush gears up for what will probably be the most expensive and nationally noticed re-election campaign in Florida history, he has one thing none of his opponents can match. He's got the job and, like all his predecessors, he's making the most of it.

In just one morning last week, Bush symbolically "re-enacted" the signing of five different bills passed by the 2001 Legislature. At the same time, Columba Bush, probably the most intensely private and family-focused first lady, held a rare news conference to announce an arts scholarship program.

Since Bush returned from his Maine vacation a few weeks ago, he and Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan have kept up a hectic pace of ribbon cuttings, grant announcements, convention speeches to sheriffs and mayors, school visits, news conferences and other public appearances all over Florida. While Democratic challengers Janet Reno, Bill McBride and Pete Peterson drive from one courthouse square to another, looking for Rotarians or talk-radio hosts to hear their views on next year's race, Bush and Brogan can draw a crowd - and, more importantly, TV cameras - just by doing their jobs.

The governor's chief speech writer recently spread the word to department heads and communication directors of state agencies: The administration is looking for more opportunities to use its bully pulpit and publicize the three-year Republican record. "To follow up on today's agency heads meeting, we'd appreciate your help in compiling stories of real Floridians we're helping, through our policies and programs," Mark Busse wrote in an e-mail message to senior staff in state agencies July 31. "We'll do all the heavy lifting of drafting the stories and any follow-up."

He asked Bush's appointees to "forward positive e-mails you receive, pass along the business cards or phone numbers of people with good stories you meet at events, forward links to, or fax articles from, trade/niche publications highlighting our efforts," and to send him press releases or newsletters "from respected interest groups or third parties" who have been touched by Bush policies. Busse said managers and agency public-information employees should "be on the lookout for good stories, as well."

"Please also keep in mind that diversity, including geographical diversity, is a very good thing," Busse wrote, citing three recent appearances in Daytona Beach, where Bush had three separate events "to illustrate how we're helping people." "The goal here is to be able to deliver that much more consistently," Busse said, "and to get each of your agencies as much publicity as possible, right from the man himself."