Obama Joined by Jeb Bush on Miami Visit

MIAMI ?? President Obama, who was testing his new bipartisan message on the streets here on Friday, promoted his education agenda with former Republican governor Jeb Bush, then used his first blunt speech of the 2012 season to urge Democrats to “build common ground Find. ”

Florida will be a critical state for Mr Obama in 2012, and Mr Obama used his visit here to continue his efforts to reposition himself in the political center. But while he’s been trying to stay above the political turmoil in Washington, applying the classic Rose Garden strategy seemed a little more difficult here in Florida.

His appearance with Mr. Bush seemed awkward at best. And his strikingly bipartisan campaign speech on consecutive fundraisers for Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and other Democrats left some in his party a little confused.

“There are times when we’ve been in the family, among Democrats, when we want to talk about being Democrats,” Mr. Obama began his speech at the first of two fundraisers at the Fontainebleau Hotel. “But today I want to talk to you a little bit about being American, I want to talk about the things that bring us together as opposed to the things that separate us.”

He went on to say that he had just gone to high school with Mr. Bush. The crowd booed and hissed. Mr Obama went on to say that he knew the Bush name was one that would normally not be heard on a Democratic fundraiser. “Although Governor Bush and I disagree on a number of issues,” said the president, “we all agree on the importance of education to America.”

The two men attended Miami Central High School; Mr. Bush suggested the venue because, after failing once, the school had made remarkable progress in test scores and graduation rates. Their joint appearance was intended to underscore what Obama hopes there will be a bipartisan attempt on Capitol Hill to re-approve No Child Left Behind, the education bill signed by Bush’s brother, former President George W. Bush.

But Mr. Obama and Jeb Bush seemed to be dancing around each other. During a tour of a technology classroom, they did not speak and barely made eye contact. Later, when Mr. Obama addressed an audience in the school auditorium, Mr. Bush gave a brief, careful introduction and said, “As you said, Mr. President, educational achievement is not a Republican or a Democratic issue, it is” an issue of national priority. “

When Mr Obama referred to Mr Bush in his remarks at the school, one name never came to his lips: George.

“Aside from being the former governor of the state, Jeb is best known as the brother of …” and here Mr. Obama paused for a long pause before adding “Marvin Bush”. The president continued, “Apparently the rest of the family worked in Washington too? Back to the day. “

While Congress is grappling with ways to cut the federal budget, Mr. Obama also suggests increasing spending on education by 11 percent ?? a proposal that is likely to meet significant opposition from Republicans intending to cut the budget. Mr Bush has not disclosed his views on the budget. But he sat blankly on a stool behind Mr. Obama, hands clasped in his lap, as the President outlined his plans.

“If we want more good news on the job front, then we have to invest more in education,” Obama said, adding, “I want everyone to understand: our job is not just to cut back. Even if we find ways to cut spending, what we can’t do is cut investments like education. “

The Miami trip marked the first time the president had mixed politics and politics since his party suffered a blow in the midterm elections. The two events ?? one at Fontainebleau and another at the house of Michael Adler, a real estate mogul here ?? raised $ 1 million for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Mr. Nelson, according to a Democratic campaign official. Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz said he raised some money for her too.

At the Fontainebleau, Mr. Obama jumped on stage and yelled “Fired Up!”, His old slogan from the 2008 presidential race. The crowd, still hurt by the bloody Democrats in the interludes, seemed eager to see him See, but it got darker as the president broke into a discussion of his day with the Republican governor, telling the story of Miami Central.

Students, parents and teachers, business people and community leaders came together to redesign the school, Obama said, noting that math scores at the school rose more than 60 percent and graduation rates rose from 30 percent to 63 percent. As a reminder, he told the story: “We are still able to approach difficult problems constructively. We don’t have to call each other names. It doesn’t have to be an ideological struggle. “

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