The super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush released an ad comparing the Florida governor to Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio). (Youtube/Right to Rise USA)

“Three Republican governors. Which governor won national praise for tough leadership handling nine hurricanes? Which governor made his state No. 1 in job creation? Which governor led the fight to stop Obamacare expansion in his state? And which governor laid out a tough plan to destroy ISIS months before the Paris attacks? Jeb Bush.”

— voiceover of new ad by pro-Jeb Bush group, Right to Rise Super PAC

The new ad from a pro-Bush Super PAC touts Bush’s record as Florida’s governor, compared to the records of two other governors vying for the GOP nomination: Chris Christie (New Jersey governor since 2010) and John Kasich (Ohio governor since 2011). This ad is among the first attack ads this campaign by Right to Rise.

Let’s examine Bush’s record in each claim.

The Facts

‘National praise for … handling nine hurricanes’

Bush was called the “hurricane governor” in a 2015 article by the Miami Herald for handling nine hurricanes — eight of which were in a 14-month span in 2004-05. According to news coverage from around the time, Democratic and Republican leaders praised Bush’s setting up emergency response operations and evacuation plans in the state and getting federal, state and local money to build and improve shelters.

The record-breaking eight hurricanes during this period “defined Bush as a steady executive in the face of disaster, the kind of leader he’d like to portray to the rest of the country now that he’s running for president and struggling to impress Republican voters,” the article said.

“His popularity with Floridians is probably tethered to those moments probably more than any policy,” former Miami Beach Democratic state senator Dan Gelber was quoted in the Miami Herald article.

The article and others about Bush’s leadership during this time note that he became known as “the undisputed national leader in emergency management,” even among Bush’s critics. According to a 2004 Associated Press article, Bush’s approval rating soared amid the hurricanes in 2004, and nearly 90 percent of those polled said they approved of his emergency response to the hurricanes. The AP cited a poll in late September that found his approval rating at 62 percent — a 17-point improvement over the previous month. Nearly 90 percent said they approved of his response to the hurricanes.

Clearly, this is quite a specific claim to Bush’s experience and not directly comparable to the other governors. One could imagine a similar talking point for Christie, and the national recognition he gained for his role after Hurricane Sandy. Christie’s ratings also soared then, and he also pushed for his state to receive federal aid. And it’s not exactly fair to compare Bush’s record to Kasich’s in Ohio, a much less hurricane-prone state.

‘No. 1 in job creation’

This is one of Bush’s favorite talking points, for which we previously awarded Four Pinocchios when he made the claim in a campaign ad. His assertion is simply not supported by official Labor Department data. 

As regular readers know, The Fact Checker warns against attributing job creation claims to the decision of one policymaker, as many factors can drive jobs numbers. Plus, there are many ways to cherry-pick jobs numbers to make the point you want to make. (Our Wonkblog colleagues put together this nifty analysis for voters to compare the records of governors accurately.)

Let’s review the numbers again. Bush was governor from January 1999 through December 2006. When he took office, there were 6,709,300 jobs, and when he left office there were 8,033,700 jobs. That is a net increase of 1.3 million jobs, and Florida ranked just behind California (1.45 million jobs) in that overall count of net jobs.

But as we’ve noted before, the best way to measure job creation is to look at the rate of job growth. Florida is a larger state, certainly much larger than Ohio or New Jersey. When looking at the rate of growth, Florida placed fifth overall during those years at 19.8 percent gain. Nevada (34.4 percent), Arizona (25.9 percent), Wyoming (23.3 percent) and Idaho (22.1 percent) ranked higher than Florida in terms of job growth rate.

Matt Wall of Right to Rise said Florida had the highest number of net jobs three out of eight years of Bush’s terms as governor, in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Those numbers check out, for net job gains. But in growth rates, Florida ranked eighth, seventh and third respectively in those three years. Plus, this method is cherry-picking years to make a point.

The difference in this ad, however, is the comparison to the other two states. It is correct that neither New Jersey nor Ohio ranked as high as Florida did under Bush in net jobs numbers or in growth rate under Christie’s or Kasich’s terms.

“Florida led the nation in net job creation under Jeb for several years, a claim neither Christie nor Kasich can make with their states,” Wall said. “Net job creation is one way to measure job growth. And just as you note Florida is a larger state than Ohio and New Jersey, there are states much larger than Florida (e.g. California’s population has millions more people than Florida) yet under Jeb, Florida still led the nation in job creation.”

But again, this is a perilous, apples-to-oranges exercise. Setting aside that there is no direct connection between a governor’s policy record and raw jobs numbers, the three states’ economies are different from each other, they were over different years, and Christie and Kasich are not yet finished with their gubernatorial terms.

‘Led the fight to stop Obamacare expansion in his state’

This is a curious one. Bush’s term as governor ended two years before President Obama took office, and three years before the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was signed into law. So what exactly was Bush’s role?

Bush remained a popular former governor when lawmakers in Florida were deciding whether to accept Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. Florida Gov. Rick Scott had planned to agree to Medicaid expansion in February 2013.

That month, Bush privately met with Florida lawmakers to urge them to oppose the Medicaid expansion, and sources told the National Review that “everyone was listening to what he had to say, because at the time, no one was entirely sure about how Scott was going to proceed.”

But the National Review also reported that Bush wasn’t expected to rally against Scott, “since he usually avoids becoming involved in partisan debates and intra-party battles. But within the upper echelons of Florida Republican politics, his opposition to Medicaid expansion is well known, and has been privately cited by Scott’s critics, who hope to kill the governor’s proposal in the legislature.” Bush also said publicly that he had doubts about the expansion.

Looking through the news coverage, Bush appears to have taken more of an advisory role than an active role to “lead the fight to stop” Medicaid expansion. We asked Wall about this, who responded: “Jeb took an active role by meeting with legislators and encouraging them to reject Obamacare expansion, which they ultimately did, so by definition he led on the issue.”

In contrast, Christie and Kasich have, indeed, allowed Medicaid expansion in their states. Kasich’s campaign noted that the Ohio governor opposed Obamacare exchanges in Ohio, and sued to block Obamacare and call for its repeal.

“The latest ad from Jeb’s team forgot to check the box for ‘Which governor is living in the past because he has no new ideas for fixing anything?’ ” said Kasich for America spokesman Rob Nichols. “You only attack those you fear and who’s beating you, so this latest attack by Jeb on Gov. Kasich only reaffirms the governor’s strength in New Hampshire. It’s actually flattering.”

‘Laid out a tough plan to destroy ISIS months before Paris attacks’

Bush made his major foreign policy speech outlining his plan to counter ISIS on Aug. 11, 2015. He argued for more troops, though he said a “major commitment of American combat forces” was unnecessary. This was three months prior to the November terrorist attacks in Paris, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. After the attacks in November, Bush definitively called for sending U.S. troops to combat ISIS.

Right to Rise noted that Kasich released a more detailed plan for ISIS during a speech Nov. 15, after the Paris attacks. But the Kasich campaign refuted this claim, saying Kasich had been rolling out his ISIS strategy since February 2015 (in an informal phone interview with The Washington Post), before his announcement to run for president.

Kasich wrote an Aug. 17 op-ed on CNN.com outlining foreign policy and counterterrorism stances, but the plan was not specifically limited to ISIS. Kasich made one reference to ISIS in the op-ed: “Any action that America takes, or suggests, is more effective if it is reinforced by a stronger military and renewed alliances. With these shored-up alliances, a stronger presence in the Western Pacific, a more aggressive allied stance toward Russia, and decisive allied action to eradicate ISIS would all produce better outcomes, as well as give potential future disruptive actors more pause for thought.”

Christie’s campaign pointed to a speech he gave in May 2015, about a month and a half before announcing his run for the presidency. The prepared version does not show an ISIS-specific strategy.

The Pinocchio Test

The ad made four claims about Bush’s record. One claim stretched the facts into an apples-to-oranges-to-lemons comparison of jobs numbers; one oddly claimed Bush “led the fight to stop” Medicaid expansion when he appeared to have played more of an advisory role; one made an accurate but very specific claim about Bush’s record handling nine hurricanes in Florida that just isn’t comparable to the other two governors (in contrast, there were eight recorded hurricanes in the eastern Ohio/Ohio Valley region since 1915); and one was accurate that Bush had delivered an ISIS-specific speech months before the Paris attacks (though his specific proposal about committing military troops was not made clear until November).

This is a highly selective group of comparisons. What if Kasich released an ad saying he was the only governor who helped to balance the federal budget? And Christie released an ad that he was the only governor who prosecuted terrorism cases after 9/11? Those claims also would be (more or less) factually accurate, but completely out of context. Neither Bush nor Christie held federally elected offices, and neither Bush nor Kasich served as United States attorney.

While the veracity of claims in this ad run the gamut from accurate to mostly false, on the whole, it earns Two Pinocchios for lacking context and creating a misleading impression for the average viewer.

Two Pinocchios

 


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