“Jeb!” is toast. My great respect for his father, brother and mother remains undiminished, but unfortunately Jeb Bush seems to have a political personality defect that makes it impossible for him to transition from being a great former Florida governor to an impressive presidential candidate on the national stage.

Bush’s debate attack on former protege Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was ill-conceived and mean-spirited. Bush’s political strategist should have known that Rubio, already under attack before debate about his Senate attendance, would be ready with a powerful defense.

Rubio, first intoning deep respect for Bush, recited a litany of statistics on Senate attendance of former presidential candidates, many of whom were supported by Bush. Then the senator stole the debate by saying, “The only reason (you’re doing this) is because we are running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.”

I would add — Bye, bye, Bush, goodbye.

Bush’s call for Rubio’s resignation from the Senate, while knowing full well many senators campaigning for president miss insignificant votes, was an act of desperation.

The Bush campaign has been a disaster and appears irretrievable. Too bad, because Bush is a highly qualified candidate for president, but sometimes, in the rough and tumble game of personal popularity politics, that is just not enough.

In my last column, I suggested that Rubio could be just one more good debate away from a “breakout.” It now appears that my prediction has come to pass, since overwhelming opinion has it that the American son of Cuban immigrants was the clear debate winner.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich had it right when, during the debate, he sounded the same alarm I have in my columns: for common sense in choosing the Republican presidential nominee. As Kasich said, “Do we really want to give the job of president to someone (such as Donald Trump or Ben Carson) who won’t know how to do it?”

Rubio is now in position to challenge the presidential pretenders. That is why we already are seeing nasty attacks surfacing about him. There will be many attempts to destroy him, but unlike Jeb Bush, Rubio appears to have the gravitas to parry and survive them.

Since Rubio is emerging as a strong contender for the Republican nomination, it is time to take a serious look at him.

He was born in Miami 44 years ago and is married to his college sweetheart. They have four children. A Catholic, he earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Florida and a J.D. from the University of Miami.

Rubio’s political career has been meteoric. After serving in county positions, he was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000 while in his late 20s. He rose to the Florida House speakership in 2005 and served in the Legislature until term-limited out. In 2011, he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

A charismatic speaker and politician, Rubio has cross-over support as a strong conservative within the Republican Party from both establishment and so-called “tea party” members. Like Paul Ryan, the new U.S. House speaker, Rubio seems to have the capability of bringing the party together.

His positions on issues of national importance include:

• The strongest possible national defense.

• Urgent need for tax reform. He proposes reducing individual income tax brackets to just two: 15 percent for those earning less than $75,000 and 35 percent for those earning more than $75,0000 after deductions. A child tax credit of $2,500 is added, and corporate taxes reduced to 25 percent from 35 percent. The estate (death) tax is eliminated.

• Favoring a balanced budget constitutional amendment that would restrict federal spending growth to the per capita inflation rate.

• Replacing “Obamacare” with a more private, market-driven insurance program.

• More emphasis on vocational education and training.

• Comprehensive legislation (as he previously supported) leading to a path to citizenship for all immigrants who qualify for it, as we secure our borders.

• Standing for social justice while supporting the sanctity of life and traditional marriage.

The son of a bartender and house maid, Rubio knows about and understands the lives and plights of those who are less fortunate. He personifies the old saying that America is the land of opportunity — if a person dares to seize it.

Rubio is a dynamic new leader who is capable of bringing together a diverse America.

I believe he has the personal and political experience, the heart and passion, to deliver on his promise of “a new century for America.”

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.

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