Jeb Bush on Brother's Biggest Obstacle to Re-Election

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, Feb. 26, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The president's re-election campaign is going to be a family affair, of course. Florida Governor Jeb Bush (search) is in Atlanta today, speaking at a Young Republican fund-raiser for his brother, the president.

Governor Bush joins me now from Atlanta.

Governor, the big question for a campaign insider like yourself, what do you all think is the biggest obstacle to the president's re-election?

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: I think that it's the misinformation that exists out there right now, but the fact is the campaign is now engaged, which a whole lot of supporters of the president are really excited about.

He launched a — with a great speech to the Republican Governors Association (search). The compare and contrast that's part of a campaign, and now that the campaign is engaged, I think people see — will begin to see the core differences in terms of policy, who believes in limited government, who believes in getting power to families to make choices for themselves, who is the best leader for our country in turbulent times.

And my belief is that a majority of Americans will support the president's re-election.

GIBSON: So where are we now on states' rights? I mean, you're the governor of Florida. If some city in Florida starts issuing gay marriage licenses, what do you do? What should the California governor be doing?

J. BUSH: Well, we're going to enforce the law in our state, and there's already the first rumblings of an effort in Florida to do just that, to have a marriage that would be in violation of state law, violation of federal law.

GIBSON: What town is that in?

J. BUSH: I believe it is in south Florida in Fort Lauderdale.

GIBSON: What are you going to do?

J. BUSH: But here's the challenge. Well, we're going to enforce the law and say that it's not valid, and — but the problem with this is that we have overly ambitious courts that — that don't take the — what the legislature says or the Congress says to heart.

And that's why I think the president's decision to support a constitutional amendment is the right thing, to once and for all make it clear that marriage should be between a man and a woman. A husband and wife should be a man and a woman.

GIBSON: Governor, if Rosie O'Donnell (search) and her new bride should move to Florida, would their marriage be recognized in any way?

J. BUSH: No it wouldn't. And Rosie O'Donnell did live in Florida. I'm sure she'll let you know all about it.

That's — those are our laws, and she — she would not, nor in any other part of the country, perhaps in Massachusetts. But to defy the law and something as sacred as a covenant as marriage, I think, is wrong, and it only, I think, leads us to believe that it's important to put this in the Constitution, which should be the last resort.

GIBSON: Governor...

J. BUSH: That's why I support the president's efforts. He has been a strong, moral leader. His compass points north. People know what he believes and stands for. People underestimate that in politics today.

And I think there is deep support for the president because of his commitment to principal.

GIBSON: OK. Let's turn to the campaign itself. As you know, the Democrats have been hammering him now for a nice long primary season. And it's had the predictable result of lowering his polling.

People who were — looks like 15, 20 percent of people who were with him just before the war started are now having second thoughts. So what do you do about that?

J. BUSH: Well, you lay out a hopeful, optimistic agenda, a specific agenda for the future, which in my brother's case, I think focuses on the issues of ownership, more focus on ownership and also to defend and to explain to the American people what a strong foreign policy means for peace in the world, as well as less terrorist threats here in our homeland.

We're fighting a war against terror, thankfully, outside of our own borders now because of the strength and fortitude of the president. And he needs to explain, which he will do very eloquently, in my opinion, what that means for the future of our country and the world.

And he could — and then the other part of the campaign is to contrast, to let the world know that John Kerry has got very liberal views on most things. And on a lot of things, he has changed his position for political expediency.

And in a turbulent world, whether it's John Kerry or John Edwards, you don't want to have someone who swings with the wind, who's like a weather vane. No one can accuse my brother of that.

GIBSON: Governor Bush, Alan Greenspan (search) says you are going to have to cut Social Security benefits. What does President Bush say?

J. BUSH: I think what Alan Greenspan says is that you have to reform Social Security. And one of the main reforms is to allow for younger workers, not for the people that are already on Social Security or the people that are about ready to get on it, to have the option of private retirement accounts.

We've done that in Florida, and over time I think we'll see the benefits of that. I believe in the Social Security system. That's but one of several reforms that will protect Social Security so you don't have to cut benefits, and that has to be done now.

No one thought that Medicare was going to be reformed, but because of the president's leadership, now seniors have a prescription drug benefit and meaningful reforms will be implemented over the next few years. It is possible to bring reform about, and I believe that it requires the kind of leadership that George Bush has.

GIBSON: Do you think Florida is going to be close again?

J. BUSH: Excuse me?

GIBSON: Do you think Florida is going to be close again?

J. BUSH: Florida is a — definitely a swing state. I think — I think we'll win by more than 534 votes, but it will — we're — we are focused on this. We have thousands of grassroots supporters. We are assuming a close election, and — and even though the economy is strong in our state, I believe that it will be close, but that the president will prevail.

GIBSON: All right. Governor Jeb Bush in Atlanta, joining us today. Governor, thank you very much. I hope you'll come back again.

J. BUSH: You bet.

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