Looking fit, relaxed and in prime condition for a possible presidential run, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday he has not yet decided what he will do.
"I'm not going to make a decision until later this year," Bush said.
He ranks among the top tier of frequently discussed potential Republican candidates.
Bush, 61, was in Punta Gorda for a commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the day that Hurricane Charley devastated the town. But he could not escape the inevitable questions about his political future.
Never miss a local story.
When told people were wondering about his plans, Bush attempted to deflect the question with humor.
"They are, are they?" Bush responded.
At one point, Bush said he will be deliberate in making his decision.
Laughing off the abundance of advice he is receiving regarding that stance, Bush said, "I don't even read my Twitter feed."
Wearing an open-necked white shirt and khaki pants, Bush began his day at the new Charlotte County emergency operations center, dubbed "the house that Charley built."
The previous EOC was demolished by Hurricane Charley Aug. 13, 2004.
Most of the discussion at the EOC revolved around shared memories of the storm and its aftermath.
But when Bush and local officials moved over to Laishley's Crab House for lunch, the questions and conversation became more political.
Bush aides almost seemed in campaign mode as they shuttled reporters in and out for five minutes at a time to eavesdrop on some of the conversation around the table.
Afterwards, the former governor stopped at the entrance of Laishley's and answered a few more questions from the press.
As for Florida's hotly contested governor's race, he said, "I'm all in for Rick Scott. I think he's doing a great job getting the state back on its feet.
"Florida is a 'purple state' (both red for Republicans and blue for Democrats) and it's going to be competitive. It's going to be well-funded and close. The improving economy should help Scott," he said.
Bush said he didn't have much interaction with former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running against Scott as a Democrat, and about whom Bush said in February has "zero credibility" because of the party-affiliation switch.
"That's OK," Bush said. "Every governor has to set his own course."
Responding to questions about the current immigration crisis at the border in the Southwest, Bush said, "Getting here legally should be easier than coming here illegally. We have to fix the immigration system.
"The administration has a responsibility to let people know they should not imperil their children and themselves by illegally entering the United States," he said, adding that they should be processed rather than released.
"The idea that it's humanitarian to thrust these people into dangerous locations is wrong. We need to deal with it in a compassionate way," Bush said.
Members of the Bush family have frequently visited Southwest Florida for vacations and fishing trips, and Jeb Bush is no stranger to the Punta Gorda area.
Just days after Hurricane Charley passed through the area, Jeb Bush visited the area with his brother, then-President George W. Bush.
"I came five years ago and it was remarkable how so many of the downtown buildings were fixed up," the younger Bush said. "We were here in December to do a little fishing, and it's amazing how quickly there has been recovery here."
Bush also spoke to well-wishers about his father, President George H. W. Bush, saying he is no longer able to walk, but who on his 90th birthday in June made a tandem parachute jump, landing a little harder than he would have preferred.
James A. Jones Jr., Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.