Bush tries to win over skeptical Iowa voters

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush parried repeated comparisons to his presidential father and brother as he hit the stump Friday in Iowa seeking to raise his lackluster polling in the state. 

Bush panned the “parlor game” where people criticize him for relying on advisers who used to aid his two famous relatives during their presidencies. 

ADVERTISEMENT

"When you have 25, 30, 40 people that are helping you with foreign policy, if they have any executive experience, they’ve had to deal with two Republican administrations. Who were the people that were the last two Republican [presidents]?” he said.  

“This is kind of a tough game for me to be playing. I’m my own person.”

His comments came during the question and answer period during the Des Moines Register’s Presidential Soapbox event at the Iowa State Fair. Candidates typically deliver a modified version of their stump speech and then take on the crowd’s queries.

He described the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as “a caliphate the size larger than Iowa” and then echoed his recent criticism of Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump vows challenge to Nevada bill expanding mail-in voting Biden should pick the best person for the job — not the best woman Juan Williams: The Trump Show grows tired MORE and the Obama administration on Iraq. 

Bush engaged with a heckler during the question period who noted that President George W. Bush signed the agreement to withdraw troops from Iraq in 2011. 

“We didn’t have to get out in 2011, it could have been modified and that was the expectation. Everybody in Iraq and everybody in Washington knew that this deal could have been expanded,” he said.

He also took on Common Core — the educational standards that he previously supported and that have drawn the ire of conservatives.

“The term ‘Common Core’ is so darn poisonous I don’t know what it means,” he said before explaining that he supports higher standards created by each state and implemented at the local level without the federal government.

“The federal government should have no say in that. If it’s not changed by law, I will do it by executive order.” 

While many strategists see him as the establishment front-runner, Bush has steadily lost traction in Iowa polling. He’s now tied for sixth place in RealClearPolitics’ average of recent polling, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) told The Washington Post that Bush “hasn’t spent enough time” in Iowa.

Bush spent more than three hours on Friday morning touring the fair, first with Republican Iowa Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst and later with Branstad. Throughout the trip, he took almost constant questions from voters, shook hands with supporters, visited the famous food stalls and lent a hand cooking. 

But the comparisons to President George W. Bush didn’t stop at politics. As he headed to the grill with Branstad to help cook hamburgers, a fairgoer piped up. 

“Who’s better on the grill, you or your brother, President Bush?” the man asked. 

“I don’t know how good he is on the grill. I do this with my son, Jeb Jr., every day," Bush replied. 

“Being from Texas might be an advantage,” the man followed up. 

“No … like I said, I’m pretty competitive,” Bush said.