Jeb 'n' Dubya - brothers divided by a common goal

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The Independent US

Al Gore was making his now celebrated "snippy" concession-withdrawal phone call to George W. Bush in the early hours of Wednesday. "Let me explain something," the Vice-President said in his leaden snarl. "Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this."

Al Gore was making his now celebrated "snippy" concession-withdrawal phone call to George W. Bush in the early hours of Wednesday. "Let me explain something," the Vice-President said in his leaden snarl. "Your younger brother is not the ultimate authority on this."

The "younger brother" is Jeb Bush. The "this" to which Mr Gore was referring was the ever-tightening presidential vote in Florida, of which Jeb happens to be governor - and thus man in the middle of the most extraordinary US election cliffhanger in modern times. And for Jeb, it was not just a political cliffhanger, but a personal one as well.

That night Jeb was with "Dubya" as he took the Gore call must have been excruciating. Florida, on which the entire election would depend, was swinging between the two candidates through the night. If he failed to deliver it, and thus cost his brother, seven years his senior, the biggest prize of all, how would Jeb look him in the eye again. At 47, Jeb Bush is some things Bushes are not supposed to be - super-articulate and multilingual (his wife, Columba, is Mexican and Jeb speaks fluent, Mexican-accented Spanish). But, like them, he shares that belief in the family destiny to rule, to the point, detractors say, of cockiness.

Jeb's ambitions were set back by his defeat in the 1994 Florida gubernatorial election to the Democrat Lawton Chiles. But that year, George W scored a stunning win over the formidable Ann Richards to become governor of Texas.

By the time Jeb caught up in Florida in 1998, George W had won re-election and become the obvious Republican frontrunner for this year's presidential nomination.The brothers share a Texan background, but otherwise differ greatly. George's looks recall those of his father, Jeb's his mother, Barbara.

The first preaches fuzzy "compassionate conservatism", but Jeb's conservatism is a purer, harder variety, and his enthusiasm for the death penalty even greater. There is sibling rivalry between them. Take Jeb's barbed line in a Florida newspaper interview a couple of months ago, answering criticism that he was not campaigning quite hard enough for his big brother.

He had to be careful how he did it, he said, "because of comparisons that might not help George in some cases".

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