"Jeb Busy was an unindicted co-conspirator," said state Sen. Kendrick Meek of Miami, a Democrat who is one of Bush's most vocal critics. "At a moment when the state needed leadership the most he failed. Floridians did not elect him to be the brother of George Bush. ... He has put gas in the Democrats' tank to put a Democrat in the governor's mansion in two years."
Even without the election controversy, 2002 could be a vulnerable time for Republicans running for statewide office. A successful turnout program in the black community drew 65 percent of African-Americans to the polls. Now, the governor's approval among blacks seems to be slipping further, according to a Mason Dixon opinion survey taken last week, which put his unfavorable rating among blacks at 54 percent, up from 34 percent in June.
Some observers find it ironic that Bush is in this position. Just a few years ago, the 47-year-old governor was favored to be the Bush brother most likely to succeed their father in the White House.
He is seen as more intellectual and well-read than George W., a better speaker and more interested in policy. He is fluent in Spanish and - despite the controversy over affirmative action - has received much praise for pushing diversity in his administration. But a narrow loss to Gov. Lawton Chiles in 1994, the same year his brother became Texas governor, put George W. ahead in experience and in a position to seek the presidency while Jeb Bush was only two years into his first term.
While people have speculated about a run for the White House someday, Jeb Bush hasn't even said whether he'll run for re-election as governor, said Elizabeth Hirst, his press secretary. He likes being governor, Hirst said.
"He doesn't really dwell on his future in politics," said McFarlain. "He'd just as soon be out doing a real estate development as be president of the United States. He's a good businessman. He likes to get things done and get action."
Both sides agree that Jeb Bush is in tricky territory right now.
"He should go visit the parents or something," MacManus said. "Or visit his son at the University of Texas."