Jeb Bush was defiant on Friday in defending his support for Common Core, arguing that he wouldn’t back down from his support for the education standards just because political winds have turned against him.

“You don’t abandon your core beliefs, you go try to persuade people as I’m doing now,” Bush said at a Nashua Chamber of Commerce business roundtable in New Hampshire. "I think you need to be genuine. I think you need to have a backbone.”

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Bush said it was “wrong” for the federal government to offer money to states to get them to adopt Common Core, “but that doesn’t mean the standards are wrong.”
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He also argued that the federal government should play no role in creating the education standards.

“Put a big iron fence around it, bury it, over and out,” Bush said.

Bush’s support for Common Core is believed to be among his biggest liabilities in the Republican primaries, but he has repeatedly shown he has no intention of moving to the right on this, or immigration reform, to appease the base.

Common Core has become toxic in conservative circles; many Republicans believe the federal government wrongly coerced states to adopt the standards by offering stimulus money and is using congressional gridlock to keep them trapped in it against their will.

Bush did not implement the standards while he was in office, but has promoted them through his education foundation.

Early in the campaign cycle, Bush has sought to highlight his education reform record during his time as governor, arguing that he raised standards, expanded school choice and oversaw a massive turnaround in graduation rates in Florida, especially among minority groups.

Bush is on his first political trip to New Hampshire in more than a decade as he moves closer to launching a bid for the White House in 2016.