BERLIN – Days before his scheduled June 15 presidential announcement, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush told reporters on Wednesday that a late decision to replace his presumptive campaign manager was a strategic move rather than a response to his tepid position in the polls.
“I don’t read the polls,” he told reporters outside the Pestana Hotel in Berlin, where he is on the first leg of a trip through Germany, Poland and Estonia. “It’s fun to see them when you’re winning, not so fun when you’re not. Doesn’t really matter, though, it’s June for crying out loud, so we got a long way to go.”
Bush said that he had chosen Florida Republican Danny Diaz as his campaign-manager-in-waiting over David Kochel, who was tapped for the role initially, to allow Kochel to take a different role masterminding the campaign’s efforts in early states.
“You have a real focus on four states in February, then you have an avalanche of states after that and you think about how to organize all that, how to develop the messaging part of this, the scheduling part of it, it’s a pretty overwhelming challenge and so I decided to kind of split up the duties,” Bush said. “David has got great success in these early states, particularly Iowa, he’s also got a great strategic mind, and Danny’s a grinder.”
He added that he was “confident that the team in place will do their job and I got to do my job as well.”
Responding to a reporter’s question about his early expectations for the race, Bush pushed back against the idea that he should be in a more dominant position by now given his fundraising strength and high-profile name brand.
“I know I’m going to have to earn this,” he told reporters. “It’s a lot of work and I’m excited about the prospects of this. It’s a long haul. You start whenever you start and you end a long, long way from today. I just urge everybody to be a little more patient about this.”
Turning to Europe, Bush repeated his call for a harder line against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who he called a “ruthless pragmatist” in Berlin on Tuesday at a conference hosted by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.
“He’s a bully and you enable bad behavior when you’re nuanced with a guy like that,” Bush told reporters, urging America and its allies to make clear that he would face specific consequences if he continued his aggression in Ukraine or expanded it to other neighboring states.
As part of that effort, Bush said he supported a “more robust” American troop presence in Poland and Baltic countries that he would decide based on military leaders’ recommendations.
Bush said he had not seen reports that President Obama was considering deploying hundreds of American troops to Anbar Province in Iraq to help advise and train local forces working to retake Ramadi, but that he hoped they would play a more active role in combat than the administration has allowed so far.
“I think our advisers, if that’s what they are, ought to be embedded in the [Iraqi] military,” he said. “It helps us with our intelligence gathering, it certainly helps with morale and their ability to train the troops.”