DES MOINES, Iowa — “You’re from Iowa,” Jeb Bush said Monday. “I mean, that’s a serious responsibility.”
Just hours before Iowans begin to caucus for their preferred candidate, Bush urged a crowd of several hundred at the downtown Embassy Suites to ignore the pundits and choose him Monday night.
With just four percent support in the state, according to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Bush is under no illusion that he’ll win the first in the nation bout, but he’s banking on doing just well enough to keep his once-heralded campaign alive.
He has the support of folks like 92-year-old Marvin Krause, whose family farm has been operating since 1892, when his grandfather immigrated from Germany.
Krause believes Bush would work to protect government subsidies for ethanol, a huge issue for the state’s farmers. Bush has attempted to walk a fine line on the Renewable Fuel Standard, suggesting that he’d like to see a phaseout by 2022.
“He has a family who’s been in public office for many years,” Krause said, listing off Bush’s assets. “He’s been the governor. He has an Hispanic wife, and maybe he could pull in some of that group.”
“He’s got a winning personality,” Krause said, “if he just had a chance in this type of a year.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who has withheld endorsing a candidate this year, was on hand to encourage caucus-goers to consider Bush. Branstad has been pushing Republican governors as healthy options for the Republican nomination.
Bush is worth considering, Branstad said Monday, because he was a “chief executive at the state level, and unlike at the federal level, balance[d] the budget every year.”
Branstad also said that Bush would be an excellent president to command the nation’s foreign policy.
“We want to make sure we have a commander-in-chief […] that will unite the world against this huge threat that we’re facing,” Branstad said, citing ISIS and Russia.
“We can’t play defense and expect that there won’t be a bad outcome,” Bush agreed during his speech and town hall event. “We need to win it there, in the caliphate, where ISIS exists — not playing defense.”
Just a minute into Bush’s remarks, two young men interrupted the candidate: “We’ve been here for over two hours and we haven’t been paid for our time,” one said. “I’m serious!”
Security quickly, but politely, hustled the pair out. Bush joked later that Young Republicans have been known to mess with rival Republican campaigns.
Bush also emphasized his fiscal record as governor of Florida. Government “should not grow faster than our ability to pay for it — plain and simple,” Bush said.
Additionally, Bush told the applauding crowd that he’s prepared for high office because he’s had a “front row seat” to the presidency, “watching the greatest man alive, my dad, and my brother.”
Bush agreed Monday that he’s part of the so-called GOP establishment because his mother is Barbara Bush, his father is President George H.W. Bush, and his brother is President George W. Bush.
“And guess who’s the most popular Republican alive today? George W. Bush,” Jeb said to a cheering crowd.
Bush also took a few shots at GOP frontrunner Donald Trump Monday, saying during the town hall portion of the event, “The new language of the political discourse has been coarsened over the last few months.”
“You can’t insult your way to the presidency,” Bush said.
“Two debates ago, someone asked Donald Trump about the nuclear triad,” Bush added later, “and there are some threshold questions that candidates ought to be able to answer, just to give you comfort. That would be one of them.”
Trump is leading Iowa in the polls, with 31 percent of the state’s Republicans supporting him.