Jeb Bush in San Francisco: Embraces Uber and 'Disrupters of Old Order'

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Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gets out of an Uber car as he arrives at the South of Market headquarters of Thumbtack, a consumer service company for hiring local professionals.  (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Jeb Bush is not his father's son, it turns out. Unlike his dad -- who either was or was not stunned by the wonders of a supermarket scanner during his unsuccessful re-election campaign in 1992 -- Bush is eager to show he's fully conversant with the tech world and the changes it's bringing to the economy and Americans' daily lives.

That's why Jeb -- Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Florida -- was riding around San Francisco Thursday morning in an Uber car. And that's why the car took him to the South of Market headquarters of Thumbtack, a firm that "allows service providers and consumers to find each other and negotiate jobs online."

Those two companies are shining examples of the on-demand or gig economy: companies that, for a price, allow individuals to connect with others offering goods and services.

Speaking to reporters after touring Thumbtack -- a session monitored by this blogger over Periscope, if you want to know why the quotes below are a little fragmentary -- Bush embraced the change he says the companies represent.

"This is a pretty vital service," he said of Uber. "You meet people who are customizing their lives in a way that it's time for celebration."

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As it happens, Uber is in the middle of a rough patch with the California Public Utilities Commission. An administrative law judge on Wednesday found the company in contempt of the agency's regulations for ride services and ordered it to pay a $7.3 million fine or face suspension of operations in the state.

When asked Thursday whether the ruling gave him pause about using Uber for today's campaign appearance, Bush said, "No, not at all." If Uber has done something wrong, it should be fined, he said, but added the company's persistent problems with regulators across the United States and around the world are part of a larger economic/regulatory picture.

"There will be a big tension with companies that are disrupting the old order," he said. But those same companies are already benefiting Americans, he said, relating his encounter with a UCLA chemistry student who told Bush he was driving for Uber to pay his way to medical school.

"Uber's giving that person a chance to fulfill his dream," Bush said. (In passing, I wonder how long it will be until some enterprising reporter tracks down the anonymous UCLA undergrad.)

On other topics:

  • On sanctuary cities: Bush said jurisdictions that refuse to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers should not be getting federal law enforcement money. San Francisco's sanctuary policy has gotten nationwide attention with the fatal shooting earlier this month of Kate Steinle, allegedly by an undocumented immigrant with a long felony record who was released despite an ICE detainer request.
  • On campaign fundraising: Bush dismissed concerns about the dearth of cash his campaign has received so far from small donors -- those giving less than $200. In a campaign finance report released this week, he reported that just 3 percent of $11.4 million raised to date came from small donors. Bush said his campaign will "have ample time to broaden" its fundraising base.
  • On his father's health: Asked about reports his 91-year-old father suffered a serious neck injury on Wednesday, Bush explained he had "cracked the second vertebra in his neck. Thankfully, it was the bone and not the nerve ending. He's in some pain and discomfort. It's kind of hard to deal with when I'm out and about here."

And then, Bush got into his chariot -- his waiting Uber car -- and departed the media swarm. Time, among others, spoke to his driver, who said he hadn't been aware he was driving a potential future Leader of the Free World:

The Uber driver who picked up Jeb Bush Thursday on a San Francisco street corner doesn’t normally vote and didn’t recognize the Republican frontrunner. But the experience of driving a man who could be President, and talking about it with a reporter, may get him to the polls this year.

He said he will probably pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. ...

... Munir Algazaly, 35, an immigrant from Yemen who has been driving Ubers for a year and a half, said “I had no idea,” that the 6’4″ passenger riding shotgun was the Republican presidential candidate.