HUDSON, New Hampshire -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush called his immigration views "the grown-up plan," defended his support for Common Core, and briefly outlined a policy to fight the Islamic State on Friday during his first political visit to the first-in-the-nation primary state in 15 years.
Bush told an audience here that the U.S. should use air power to create a "protected" zone in northeast Syria that would allow the U.S. to "engage and isolate" ISIS. "You could allow an army to be built, both a Syrian Free Army and international soldiers with the airpower of the United States and intelligence capability and training that you could engage and isolate ISIS in that fashion -- that would be I think the best way to do this," Bush said.
He called his immigration vision "the grown-up plan"; Bush supports allowing undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. "It's easy to say, 'Well, anything you can propose is amnesty.' But that's not a plan," he said.
And he defended Common Core, acknowledging that in many states it had been implemented poorly but "that doesn't mean the standards were bad."
His comments came during the first public stop on a two-day trip through New Hampshire -- his first political visit to the Granite State since 2000, when he campaigned here for brother George W. Bush.
New Hampshire's maverick streak hasn't always been good to the Bush family. George W. Bush, who was the overwhelming frontrunner for the nomination in 2000, still lost the state to John McCain. George H.W. Bush won the state in 1988 when he was vice president -- but despite the fact that he already occupied the Oval Office, in 1992, Pat Buchanan mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge.
In a question-and-answer session with reporters, Jeb Bush said he didn't want to remember those losses -- but reminisced about bringing a group of Floridians to campaign in the dead of a cold New Hampshire winter.
While he's in the state, Bush will pay a visit to former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, do interviews with local media, appear at a traditional New Hamsphire house party, and hold fundraisers for Republican lawmakers Rep. Frank Guinta and Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
Even as he weighed in on a series of policy issues, Bush was careful to emphasize that he hasn't yet made up his mind about running for president. He also fielded questions from reporters on Iran, immigration, and a possibly looming battle with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker for the Republican nomination. "I'm joyfully pursuing the possibility of this," Bush said, "and I will do so at some point and then I'll go at it."