In search of Iowa momentum, Bush courts the anti-Washington crowd

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2015 5:00 PM

By Steve Holland

OSKALOOSA, Iowa (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s three-day campaign swing through Iowa this week is all about presenting himself as the anti-Washington politician many conservatives crave to shake up Washington.

Bush is looking for some of the love that has sent outsiders Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina to the top of Republican polls.

"I’ve never lived in Washington, I’ve never been part of Washington. I just have the skills set to disrupt the beast,” he said at a town hall event.

On his longest campaign trip to Iowa, Bush told coffee shop crowds in Oskaloosa and Muscatine on Wednesday and a dinner in Davenport on Tuesday that if elected in November 2016, he would “disrupt the old order” in Washington. He pointed to his record during two terms as Florida governor.

“I took on the establishment, I took on the special interests. I took on the status quo, and turned it upside down and things got better,” Bush said in Muscatine. “I hope you want a proven leader to turn things upside down a little bit.”

Bush's strategy is to bolster his image in Iowa, which on Feb. 1 will hold the first nominating contest on the road to the November 2016 election.

Bush and his advisers believe once his record is better known to voters it will ease concerns they may have about him.

One challenge in presenting himself as an outsider is Bush's family history, as the son of a former president and brother of another. At one point in Muscatine, he noted he had written a 14-page letter to his brother George when he was president in which he argued for shifting some power from the federal government back to the states.

"A dear George letter," he chuckled.

Some Republicans who attended a Scott County Republican Party dinner on Tuesday night in Davenport where Bush spoke suggested reasons why he is lagging in the polls in Iowa.

"The real question is, do people really want to get behind somebody who is not an outsider?" said Michael Ehlers, one Republican at the dinner.

Bob Quast of Bluegrass, Iowa, agreed: "He is not doing very well because right now people are anti-establishment."

While a victory in Iowa may be out of reach, his advisers believe a high finish in a fractured field of 15 Republican candidates could give Bush momentum for the battles in the next early voting states, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Leslie Adler)