Jeb Bush works Iowa to end but all hope on New Hampshire
DES MOINES – Jeb Bush worked it to the end, holding a rally here hours before what is certainly to be a humbling showing at the caucuses.
"We need a leader who has a servant's heart. We have candidates where it's all about them - whenever the running gets tough they cut and run," Bush said, alluding to Florida rival Marco Rubio on the Gang of 8 immigration bill.
He spent more time on Donald Trump, telling Iowans they could blunt his momentum. "You want a president that thinks he's got it all figured out all the time, just a big blowhard that says he's going to do this or that?"
A number of Bush supporters from Florida helped fill a room at the Embassy Suites, acknowledging the grim outlook – Bush was polling at 2 percent in Saturday’s Des Moines Register survey – but kept repeating two words:
“This is just the beginning. The issue here is being able to go in to New Hampshire, where we’re very competitive and to do well,” said Alan Levine, one of a number of Florida supporters in Iowa.
“Jeb’s clearly getting momentum and that’s good,” Levine said, referring to polling in the Granite State.
Tonight, Levine plans to work the caucus crowd at an elementary school in Ankeny. “They said, ‘Be passionate,’ I said, ‘I won’t have any trouble with that.”
In the hotel audience was Jackie Unger, 80, of West Des Moines who said Bush is right on all the issues: education, military, abortion. But she acknowledged the stumbles and continued challenges.
“In the beginning a lot of people thought he didn’t come across well in the debates. He was rather tentative,” Unger said.
“And some people still think, ‘Not another Bush.”
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad introduced Bush and touted his record on education, saying how Florida kids had done better than Iowans, leading to playful boos from the audience.
Bush breezed through his stump speech, ripping Obama as a polished speaker but a failure and saying he had a serious plan to defeat ISIS.
At one point a couple guys stood up and said they had not been paid for showing up. "Get out of here, man," Bush said to applause.
Jeb pursuaded at least one undecided voter to caucus for him.
"It was my first time hearing him and I'm impressed," Debra Schneider, 44, said of Bush's temperment and ideas.