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Why did Jeb Bush release an eight-year pile of e-mails?

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Paul Sancya/AP

(Read caption) Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a Economic Club of Detroit in Detroit, Feb. 4. Stepping closer to a White House bid, Bush on Tuesday released thousands of emails and the first chapter of a related e-book designed to highlight his leadership style.

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Jeb Bush on Tuesday released a pile of e-mails from his time as Florida governor and an e-book that uses selected messages to narrate his first days in office.

Why is he shoveling out so much material? He says it’s in “the spirit of transparency.” The almost-certain 2016 presidential candidate uses the e-mails to try to paint a picture of an absorbed state chief executive who reads and answers missives from constituents. In that sense, he’s trying to frame his image at the beginning of what promises to be a long and bruising campaign.

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Plus, it’s likely all this stuff would have surfaced anyway due to sunshine laws and nosy journalists. His campaign team is thus making lemonade out of you-know-what.

“Bush is trying to introduce national voters to his eight year run as governor on his own terms, portraying himself as an engaged, hands-on executive who was not afraid to address his critics,” write MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin and Jane C. Timm.

At the beginning of the e-book, Mr. Bush talks of himself as the “e-governor” and brags that he spent upwards of 30 hours a week answering e-mails from his laptop and BlackBerry.

Yes, his BlackBerry. Whatever happened to those? Technology moves fast, and his mention of a virtually dead platform may serve to point out how long it’s been since he was actually in office.

That said, the e-mails show a governor who took the time to respond politely to a teen who sent an all-caps e-mail telling Bush, “DON’T MESS WITH OUR RIGHTS!” In e-mails Bush requests staffers to brief him on how workers’ compensation judges are selected, what the status is of a tax dispute between the state and the American Legion, and other somewhat down-in-the-weeds governing details.

One e-mailer asks where she should direct complaints about tractor-trailer traffic on Interstate 75, “now that they are not allowed in the left lane.” She closes her missive by asking if she is really talking to the governor, or a staff member.

“Just curious,” she writes.

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“I am Jeb. You can write Secretary Barry at the DOT in Tallahassee,” Bush replied in an e-mail time-stamped at 6:47 a.m.

This sort of thing is getting Bush some good reviews with right-leaning pundits.

“The e-mails reveal a governor immersed in granular details and anxious to engage endlessly, even with voters who don’t like him at all,” writes the conservative Jennifer Rubin at her "Right Turn" blog in The Washington Post.

Now that possible rival Mitt Romney has said he’s not running, Bush appears to be moving quickly to try to consolidate his position as the candidate of what might be called the Republican establishment – big donors, state party chairmen, and others concerned with nominating the candidate they feel has the best chance to beat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Early polls show Bush in the lead with GOP voters. The RealClearPolitics rolling average of major surveys gives him a plurality of about 16 percent of the Republican primary vote, seven points ahead of the second-place Chris Christie.

But with 12 or so current candidates and months before actual voting starts, that lead doesn’t mean much. More important for Bush is his aggressive move to win the so-called invisible primary, in which he competes for donor cash and status with important party figures.

Right now he’s winning this notional contest, judge University of Virginia political scientists Larry Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley.

Bush is “the kind of candidate who historically wins GOP nominations, and the Bush family and campaign apparatus deserve the respect they’ve earned over three and a half decades in presidential politics,” they write.


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