By Rocio Gonzalez, VOXXI
There is the Martinez. The Rubio. The Fortuño. The Cruz.
Then there’s the other Hispanic causing a stir this week at the Republican National Convention: The Bush.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush , who will address the convention and televised audience Thursday, may not have any real Latino blood in his veins, but his relationship with Hispanics has been a close one for years. So much so, that he is often lumped in with other “Latino leaders” and “Hispanic Republicans” as if he was one of them.
“He is accepted as part of the Cuban community,” said Jose Fuentes, of Fuentes & Rodriguez, a Miami government consulting firm, who has known Bush for about three decades. “He was like one of us kids. My father would tell me, ‘Oye, you have to be like Jeb.’”
He was one of the most celebrated speakers at the convention for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in June and participated in a luncheon this week for the Hispanic Leadership Network at the GOP convention Tuesday where he said that if President Bill Clinton was the first black president then he was the first Cuban governor.
Coming from a prominent political family, Bush’s ties to the Hispanic community have been very valuable to the Republican Party over the years. He has even served the GOP as a tool to reach out to the coveted Latino votein Florida—and, indeed, the 10 to 12 million Hispanic voters nationwide—in an election cycle where the stakes are very high and those votos could make a difference.
“Jeb always looked at how to make key ties,” political analyst Javier Cuebas told VOXXI. “He knew how to gain the Latino vote.”
Bush’s ties to the Latino community run deep: He married his wife Columba, a Mexican, after he met her while teaching English as a Second Language in Mexico. They have two sons and a daughter. Bush has been described as an “honorary Latino” by some.
“His wife, Columba, is Mexican, therefore his three children are Latinos,” Cuebas said. “As far as I know, at least his two sons have been very clear about their Latino heritage.”
This has all been reason enough for the community to take him on as an adopted son; one of their own.
Recently, Bush has called out his own party in regards to their policies when it comes to Hispanics and immigration, where the GOP seems to be alienating essential votes. He has said the relationship between the Republican Party and Latinos needs improvement.
Hispanics seem to agree.
“I think a lot of people voted Republican because of him, but now, Puerto Ricans, Hispanics, they’re seeing that the Republican Party are very much to the extreme right and negatively affecting—it’s not supporting our needs as a community,” Betsy Franceschini, a Puerto Rican community leader in Central Florida, told VOXXI.
As VOXXI previously reported, there is a sizable Puerto Rican community in Florida. This was a key demographic Bush was able to tap into in the past, given his family’s relationships in the Caribbean island.
“The Bush family had a very strong relationship with the New Progressive Party (PNP) in Puerto Rico, even with Gov. Pedro Rosselló [a Democrat], because of their friendship,” Cuebas said. “Jeb Bush knew how to get the Puerto Rican community at a certain point. That helped him and gave him a lot of popularity, much more than the Democrat candidates he faced.”
Franceschini said Bush campaigned a lot in the 1980s, lobbying for the Hispanic community’s vote, before he was governor.
“People got to know him as a person, he spoke the language,” she said, adding that it was an advantage when trying to win over voters.
He also has won over the Republican Cubans in Miami—some of whom now see him as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, should Mitt Romney fail to win the White House this year.
Fuentes told VOXXI that it’s because he never pretended to be Hispanic, he simply just felt it.
“When Jeb came onto the [political] scene in Miami, one of the things he adopted right away was the Cuban community,” Fuentes said. “And it was very authentic. It wasn’t just because he spoke the language. He knew the trends, he knew the situations and felt them. He was passionate about it. And he was authentic.
“Always has been,” Fuentes told VOXXI.
Bush has endorsed Romney but has pointed out that the GOP needs to change the tone of the immigration discussion if they want to attract voters. The party certainly needs him now more than ever, to get back a community it has alienated.
That might be the key to winning this November.