ABC News' David Chalian Reports: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has decided against taking the plunge and entering the 2010 open Senate race in Florida to replace the retiring Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.
“While the opportunity to serve my state and country during these turbulent and dynamic times is compelling, now is not the right time to return to elected office," Bush said in a written statement.
Mr. Bush's decision robs political observers what would have clearly shaped up to be one of the marquee Senate races of the 2010 midterm elections.
Former Gov. Bush's decision may also disappoint his father and brother. In recent weeks, both Presidents Bush (41 and 43) publicly supported the idea of Jeb Bush launching a campaign for the United States Senate. However, former President Bush told Fox News on Sunday that a higher office may be in the offing. "I'd like to see him run," the elder Bush said. "I'd like to see him be president some day."
"As president, it's about service, service for the greatest country on the face of the Earth and the honor that goes with it," Bush said. "I think Jeb fits that description."
Father Bush then flashed his keen political sense to FOX's Chris Wallace by offering this note of caution: "I mean, right now is probably a bad time, because we've got enough Bushes in there."
In his statement today, the former governor said he hopes to play a role in the future of the Republican Party and offered a bit of a shout out to President-Elect Barack Obama and a plea for bipartisan solutions to the country's problems.
"We must raise the level of debate to reflect the American people’s desire for change and bi-partisanship, embodied by November’s historic election," Bush said. "President-elect Obama ran a tremendous campaign and I am proud to call him my President. I am confident Republicans will find productive ways to work together with the new administration to advance reforms both sides of the aisle can support."
A Florida Senate race without Jeb Bush is a blow to national Republicans who are coming off a terrible 2008 election cycle where they lost at least seven (maybe eight depending on the outcome in Minnesota) seats to the Democrats. Holding onto the seat in the Sunshine State will prove a tougher challenge for the GOP without the popular former governor on the ballot. The 2010 landscape is not necessarily going to prove much more hospitable for the Republicans than did 2008. Democrats, who face fewer likely retirements than the minority party, need to defend 17 seats compared to 20 seats for the Republicans.