Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush back in Iowa, courting wary 2016 voters

The Iowa campaign begins for Jeb Bush with two-day visit to first caucus state

In his first appearance in Iowa since announcing he was weighing a run for president, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday fondly recalled campaigning here with his father but said he would work to differentiate himself from both former President George H.W. Bush as well as his brother, former President George W. Bush.

“There are people including myself that love my brother, love my dad, but I’m going to have to get this on my own,” Bush told reporters after speaking at a fundraiser for Rep. David Young, an Iowa Republican. 

Speaking to about 100 people at a dessert reception, Bush said he had stumped across the state on behalf of his father, and indicated he would run similarly hard if — as widely expected — he seeks the White House himself.

“I just love this state. I really had a good time, and my dad won, which was a spectacular experience,” Bush said. “I’ve done it both ways. I’ve been to Iowa where my dad lost, and I’ve been there when he won. I like the winning part better, to be honest with you.”

(The elder Bush won the Iowa caucuses in 1980 but not the nomination; he finished third in the caucuses in 1988 but won the nomination that year, and ultimately the White House. George W. Bush won the caucuses in both years he was elected, 2000 and 2004.)

The appearance was Bush’s first foray into the state that will hold the first presidential nominating contest early next year. Over the course of a two-day swing, he will court GOP activists and greet voters--and try to allay concerns by conservatives here that he is not one of them.

To make that case, Bush touted his tenure as governor of Florida, repeatedly saying he was a conservative who cut taxes, slimmed the state workforce, presided over the creation of 1.3 million jobs, eliminated affirmative action and improved the state’s schools.

“I have a record I think people might be interested in learning about,” Bush said.

On Saturday, Bush and nearly a dozen other potential White House candidates will speak at an agriculture forum at the state fairgrounds in Des Moines. He will also address supporters privately at a barbecue restaurant in Waukee and meet diners at a Pizza Ranch in Cedar Rapids.

Bush is considered a national front-runner because of his fundraising prowess, but faces skepticism among conservative Republicans in part because of his support for a set of national education standards known as Common Core. Tellingly, that was the subject of the first question he received Friday from a member of the audience.

Bush stuck by his position, but emphasized that he believed education decisions had to be made at the state and local levels.

“What I’m for is higher standards, assessed faithfully, so we that we know where kids stand,” Bush said, noting that Common Core had been adopted by 45 states. “States that don't want to participate — that’s fine. It’s a voluntary deal."

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