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Mass. Governor Hires Jeb Bush Aide for '08 Bid

October 13, 2006|Peter Wallsten | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — With the Republican Party's conservatives lacking a favorite candidate for the 2008 presidential race, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has hired a strategist who might help him win their favor.

Sally Bradshaw, a longtime political advisor and confidante to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, confirmed Thursday that she has signed on as a consultant to Romney's political action committee.

Known in Florida circles as Jeb Bush's equivalent to President Bush's Karl Rove, Bradshaw will advise the Romney campaign on navigating the complicated political contours of the most populous battleground state. But more important in the context of what is likely to be a competitive GOP primary, Bradshaw's presence helps Romney shore up his credentials with conservatives who view the Florida governor as one of their favorite Republicans.

Jeb Bush, despite his brother's sagging popularity, is admired by social conservatives for his support of private school vouchers and his involvement in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case.

In his quest to win support from increasingly important evangelical voters, Romney, a Mormon who was elected in one of the nation's most liberal states, has disavowed statements supporting abortion rights

Bradshaw's decision to work for Romney also confirms that the Florida governor, who is prevented by term limits from seeking reelection, is not planning his own White House bid for 2008.

"It should be no surprise that I am not running for president," Bush wrote in an e-mail late Thursday. "After all, that is what I have told you and others in the press for a long time."

Bradshaw said Thursday that Bush encouraged her to consider working for Romney, who will appear with the governor next week in Florida at several campaign events.

Bradshaw's Florida connections could also prove useful for Romney if that state's GOP-led Legislature proceeds with plans to move up the date of the state's presidential primary. The new House speaker is pushing a bill that would schedule the election immediately after New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

Other major GOP candidates have sought advice from Jeb Bush, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who flew to Tallahassee late last year for a private meeting.

Bush said Thursday that he is not supporting any candidates, but said Romney would be "formidable" if he runs.

peter.wallsten@latimes.com

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