Governor Terry Branstad says he talked a week ago with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush about Bush’s possible participation in a forum here in Iowa on March 7.
“He indicated to me he was very interested in coming,” Branstad told reporters this morning during his weekly news conference. “I wouldn’t say that’s a confirmation, but it was a very positive conversation.”
The forum, to focus exclusively on ag-related issues, is being hosted by Bruce Rastetter, one of Branstad’s major donors and Branstad has been calling candidates to ask them to attend. Branstad, who admits he did more talking than Bush did, said he “reminded” Bush about his father’s campaign here.
“I reminded him in 1979 and 1980 his mother and father and he and his two brothers — George W. and Neil — went to all 99 counties,” Branstad said. “…And so I said: ‘Well, you know what it takes to win in Iowa and that is you need to come here early and often and you need to go to all 99 counties.”
Branstad had backed Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Branstad as he watched the Bush family canvas the state for the 1980 election, Branstad began calling Reagan’s campaign manager to warn him about Bush’s activity.
“I think Reagan could have carried the state, but they blew it,” Branstad said.
Bush had a “personal recollection” of campaigning in Iowa 36 years ago, according to Branstad.
“I didn’t press him more on that, but I said: ‘You know how it can be done in Iowa,'” Branstad says. “…The key to winning in Iowa is hard work…We have a strong group of potential candidates and I’m excited about it and I’m glad they’re coming and I hope they’ll keep coming back again and again.”
Not only did Jeb Bush’s father win Iowa’s 1980 Caucuses, but his brother, George W., won the Caucuses 20 years later en route to winning the White House. Bush’s father and brother both won the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll, as well, but Branstad said he did not speak with Jeb Bush about that event this coming August.
AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference (discussion of 2016 campaign starts at 20 minute mark)