Eating corn, checking out fairs

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Eating corn, checking out fairs

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By Quentin Misiag

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For more than seven months, the national campaign apparatus to catapult Jeb Bush into the White House has dispatched the Republican candidate’s 31-year-old son as a sort of lifeline to capture millennial supporters.

On dozens of occasions, officials at Bush’s Right to Rise Super PAC — the mastermind behind the move — saw in Jeb Bush Jr. a winning formula.

He, like the 20- and 30-somethings, is young.

At events in New York, Houston, Miami and Chicago, John Ellis Bush Jr., nicknamed “Jebby,” won over young Republicans with a laid-back demeanor, familiarity with the latest round of up-and-coming bands and more than anything an appetite for new leadership.

But on Thursday over pizza and pints of beer, dozens of University of Iowa students had a swift and resounding message for the younger Bush: You’re just not cutting it.

Bush Jr. addressed a crowd of approximately 40 young Republicans — including many with the UI College of Republicans — in a side room at the Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St.

Rather than fire up students with a short list of reasons to support his father, a former Florida governor, Bush Jr. spent less than 30 seconds introducing himself and inviting them to come up to him with any questions.

Over a half a dozen UI students and members of the greater Iowa City community described the younger Bush as “awkward,” “stale,” and “uneasy.”

After grabbing a few slices of free pizza, more than a dozen other students and local residents left the event after they learned that the Bush who had dropped in to Iowa City was not the presidential candidate they had hoped to see.

“If he can’t even talk for a few minutes, how can he expect us to go out and support his father? He was terrible tonight,” said one UI senior, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of her previous ties with Republican campaign operations. 

In an interview with The Daily Iowan following speaking with over 20 students, Bush Jr. said his father won’t just secure one of the “Three Tickets” out of Iowa, but he will easily sweep the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“I think he can win Iowa, no question about it. We’re organizing to win. That’s the game plan,” he said, adding that at least two college student representatives on over 200 campuses are already on board with the Bush bid.

Political observers have historically said that three presidential candidates can surface at the front of the line in the wake of the state’s nominating contest.

For those candidates who don’t finish in the top three in the state often stumble to build a successful national base at the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses.

This cycle, Gov. Terry Branstad and ally New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another GOP presidential rival, have both publicly said they believe there is a strong likelihood of more than three tickets emerging from Iowa. 

Others in attendance expressed widespread support for former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Two allies with Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul were also on hand.

Many of the more than 30 Jeb Bush campaign stickers that aides had passed out to students and guests were on the floor or in the trash before Bush Jr. left the restaurant.

The Airliner, a historic Hawkeye sports bar, is a popular stop-over for Republican presidential candidates and their surrogates during election years.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum — an underdog for the Republican nomination in 2016 — slammed the cost of higher education and talked up his support for an increase in the federal minimum wage in a visit to the restaurant on Oct. 14.

Mike Thom, deputy Iowa director for the Jeb Bush presidential campaign, said Bush Jr. will return on Oct. 31 for a state party function. He was last in the state in April for a visit to Dubuque’s Loras College in April.

“We’re in the fourth inning now. It’s a lot of blocking and tackling,” Bush Jr. said before leaving the restaurant.

When asked what he’s learned from spending his first few weeks in Iowa campaigning for his father, he added:

“You learn how to eat corn and check out some fairs.”

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