During Jeb Bush's first visit as an officially declared presidential candidate to the early voting state of Iowa Wednesday, the man who wants to be America's third President Bush struck a humble and earnest tone at a backyard meet and greet.
Bush, who highlighted his conservative record during his time as Florida governor, told potential voters in Washington, Iowa, as they sat at picnic tables that he felt the looming presence of his mother. “In my family, I was brought up not to toot my own horn ... I’m not a bragger. It’s hard for me to do this. But I can promise you, if I’m elected president, I will work hard to change the direction of the country,” the Republican said. “... I’m humbly here to ask for your vote.”
It was a stark contrast to billionaire business mogul Donald Trump’s boastful and bombastic announcement Tuesday that he too was running for the party’s nomination, with declarations like “I’m really rich” and “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created.”
Bush made a joking reference to Trump’s announcement, telling the crowd he heard “another guy showed up yesterday.” Bush noted that while a lot of Republicans were running for the nation’s highest office, “the question to think about is who has the leadership skills to take conservative ideas and turn them into reality.”
Polling indicates Bush would face strong headwinds in the Hawkeye State. According to a recent Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register survey, more than a third of likely GOP caucus goers said they would never vote for Bush. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, meanwhile, led with 17% support, and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson tied for second with 10%. Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee followed with 9% each.
So far, Bush has just a handful of employees in Iowa and has only made two previous trips to the state in the last year. Still, Bush’s team this week pointed to endorsements from nearly two dozens GOP activists, business leaders and politicians in the state as proof that he's a serious contender.
Some say Bush’s more moderate positions on Common Core and immigration reform could make it hard for the candidate to win over more conservative, Iowa caucus voters.
Bush on Wednesday, however, remained unapologetic, especially on his stance on immigration. “I believe what I believe, and I believe in comprehensive immigration reform,” he said at the event. The Republican has said he believes the U.S. needs to secure its border, but he also backs an overhaul that includes a path to “legal status” for undocumented immigrants. He also said DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) should have the opportunity to earn citizenship.
He also took aim at President Obama, saying the commander-in-chief "has had the opportunity to do his version of what I just described.”
Bush added, "He could’ve done it his first two years he promised it, in fact, and he didn’t do it because he wants to use this as a political issue. He likes this as a wedge issue. He thinks Democrats win by not solving this. There’s some indication he might be right about that, so he doesn’t want to solve this, and the reason, it’s proven by the fact that instead of going to Congress and doing what presidents used to do, which is find consensus, find bipartisan approaches, have humility to be able to have give and take to be able to get to a point where you get to a win-win. Instead of doing that, he’s using executive order authorities that he doesn’t have—the Constitution doesn’t grant him. He’s doing this as it relates to the Dream Act kids in an unconstitutional fashion and the courts will prove me right.”