This “very good moderate Democrat” defied court after court to try and force the reinsertion of feeding tubes for brain-damaged Terri Schia­vo and consistently backed more restrictions on abortions and fewer on gun ownership. He fought for reduced entitlement spending and, deriding nanny-state impulses, repealed the helmet law for motorcyclists in Florida and vetoed a GOP-backed bill requiring booster seats for kids in cars.

“For us who live in Florida, who experienced the eight-year Jeb Bush governorship, it’s almost laughable and maybe even hysterical for people who live outside of Florida to claim that he’s a moderate,” said former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, himself a conservative Republican who led the opposition to Florida accepting federal money to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 people.

“This is a guy who probably has as conservative a record as governor as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Weatherford said, “and he has one of the most successful records as governor of anybody I’ve ever seen.”