Saturday, May 16, 2015

A brief Bush writeup

Faced with multiple media questions, Jeb Bush defended his decision to skip this summer's Iowa straw poll.

"Why would I be here if I wasn't going to compete in Iowa?" Bush told about 20 reporters in University Heights this afternoon.

Why Bush was here, officially, was to raise money for Chuck Grassley. Bush and Grassley had two events at the University Athletic Club - a general admission event priced at $50 to $100, and a small "clutch" event for $2700, the maximum federal donation to Grassley's campaign. (Grassley's two announced Democratic opponents, Tom Fiegen and Bob Krause, have not raised enough money between them for one clutch event ticket.)

"I just don't do straw polls," Bush said, saying he was planning on skipping one in his home state of Florida. ""You want to focus on winning. This candidate - if I run - will be an aggressive campaigner in Iowa."

The "ifs" that Bush mentioned discussing his "possible" candidacy seemed very perfunctory.

"The straw poll has nothing to do with the caucuses," Bush added. "All the resources ought to go to the thing that matters."

Pressed on whether he thought he could win in Iowa, Bush said "I intend to win period" without any IF qualifiers. He then turned the question around, asking the Gazette's James Lynch, "Would you compete and aspire to be fourth place or sixth place in anything?"

When national reporters asked about Bush's fumbled answer on an Iraq question last week, Bush said "I answered a different question" (than the reporter asked). "We all make mistakes If you're looking for a perfect candidate, He was around about 2000 years ago."

The Christ reference may or may not have prompted a question about discussing faith, specifically his switch from Protestant to Catholic, on the trail. "I talk about it as part of my life story. Part of this journey is to share your heart."

Grassley kept chatting with in-state reporters for a few minutes as Bush headed off to tonight's Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, where 11 declared or "if" candidates will speak. Grassley followed close behind, presumably watching carefully for deer.

"Each campaign will make its own decision and I respect those decisions," Grassley said of Bush and the straw poll. "I'll be encouraging everyone to be in Iowa."

As for the large field, Grassley said, "This is America, and freedom prevails. You can't discourage anybody from running without sticking your neck out." He did say that the large field made it less likely that he would make an endorsement before the caucuses.

For now, Grassley said he is focused on his own re-election race and how that can help other Republicans. He noted that 2004, the last time his seat came up on the presidential cycle, was also the one time the GOP presidential candidate has carried Iowa in recent years.

In all, I didn't get much sense of Bush the candidate. Answering media questions in a press conference setting is a good thing to do, but to really get the sense of the candidate, you need to hear the applause lines in the speeches and watch them working the room.  "If" that happens, I'll check him out again.

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