Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is making his first trip to Iowa since making it clear he’s laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential campaign.
“The possibility of running is daunting and running would be even more so,” Bush said this morning before he boarded the plane. “I think the lesson learned that I took away from Iowa in my forays in there for my dad and my brother is that you’ve got to be all in. You’ve got to really take the time to meet people and campaign there actively one-on-one and on a personal level.”
Bush touches down in Iowa later today and his first event will be a fundraiser at Living History Farms for Republican Congressman David Young. Tomorrow he’ll be among the potential presidential candidates to speak at the Iowa Ag Summit in Des Moines. During a conversation today with Radio Iowa, Bush talked about his campaign experiences here in the 1980s, when his dad was running for president.
“I learned a lot because I did a lot of it,” Bush said, with a laugh. “I learned to be confident speaking. I learned to listen to people well. I enjoyed the experience a lot when I was a young man working as a volunteer in my dad’s campaign full-time and, since I spent so much time in Iowa, I got really close to the state.”
And Bush rejects the idea there is a level of “Bush fatigue” in Iowa.
“That’s not the Iowa that I know,” Bush said. “The Iowans I know are pretty thoughtful and want to get to know the candidates. They don’t discount any of them…I’m going to go make my case and, once people know my record as governor and know my life experience, I think I’ll get a fair hearing.”
Some conservatives dismiss Bush as a “moderate” and cite Bush’s support of immigration reform and his advocacy of so-called “Common Core” standards for American schools. Bush cites his “Florida record” as a rebuttal to the accusation that he’s too moderate to be the party’s presidential nominee.
“I cut taxes every year, totalling $19 billion in eight years. I reduced the state government’s workforce by 13,000. I eliminated Affirmative Action as a policy in our admissions and procurement and replaced it with a system that did not discriminate but yielded better results for African-Americans and Hispanics,” Bush said. “We created the first statewide voucher program in the United States. We had the greatest gains in learning of any state for a period of time and we’re still one on the national leaders.”
Bush became Florida’s governor in January of 1999 and left office eight years later after creating what he describes as “the best business climate Florida had ever seen” with over 1.3 million “net” new jobs created.
“I took on the trial bar, the teachers union. You know, there’s nothing in my record that would suggest that I’m a moderate,” Bush said, with a laugh. “And it is a record of accomplishment and it’s certainly a conservative record in a purple state.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — two likely competitors in the Republican presidential contest — make the same “purple state” argument, touting their ability to govern in states where Democrats have dominated and Democratic presidential candidates are routinely General Election winners.
“Florida’s not a conservative state. It is a swing state and I got to act on conservative principles and apply them,” Bush said. “And I think that same kind of leadership of doing things and being successful doing so in a state that wasn’t a slam-dunk Republican state can be brought to bear in Washington.”
And Bush said he does not plan to accept “the narrative” that he said it being written, suggesting he will be unable to win over segments in the Republican Party who reject any candidate willing to discuss immigration reform.
“First of all, I’d love for them to read my book, “Immigration Wars”. You could probably buy it at a deep discount on Amazon these days,” Bush said. “But in that book we talk about how fixing a broken system would be better for our country’s economic prosperity.”
Before any discussion of granting legal status to those who entered the country illegally, Bush said priority one should be border security.
“I think the president’s efforts of using executive authority he doesn’t have is wrong and very damaging to trying to build consensus to trying to fix our immigration system that’s broken — or any other thing,” Bush said. “And restoring a sense that we can begin to solve problems again has to be part of the responsibility of the next president.”
During his conversation with Radio Iowa this morning, Bush also commented on the controversy surrounding the private computer server Hillary Clinton used for her email when she was secretary of state. Bush, as Florida’s governor, used a private email account and personal server. He still encourages people to send messages to that firstname.lastname@example.org address, but Bush indicated that, if he’s elected president, he would not use a private email account.
“For security purposes, you need to be behind a firewall that recognizes the world for what it is and it’s a dangerous world and security would mean that you couldn’t have a private server,” Bush said. “It’s a little baffling, to be honest with you, that didn’t come up in Secretary Clinton’s thought process.”
AUDIO of Bush’s interview with Radio Iowa, 8:35