We know your father and brother well, a voter in a University of Iowa ballcap told Jeb Bush at a mid-day campaign stop on Friday.
How, the man wanted to know, are you similar and different from those former presidents?
Bush talked at length about his father as “the most wonderful man in the world.”
George H.W. Bush was a hero in World War II, he said, a kind father who neither struck his children nor swore at them. The 91-year-old’s life has been “so rich, so big.”
His father was such a success, Jeb Bush said, that he actually found comfort in realizing that he it would be so impossible to top his father’s accomplishments and that it would be pointless to try.
“That freed me up a little,” the former Florida governor said.
Bush said his life has been much different from his father’s. He married young, at 21, to a woman from Mexico, and worked in Venezuela for a time.
Jeb Bush’s brother George W. Bush won the presidency twice, but left office seven years ago with withered approval ratings. And Jeb Bush was less expansive in talking about his sibling.
“I guess George is more disciplined,” Bush told a crowd of about 100 potential voters. “I’m probably a little more cerebral.”
Then, with a take-me-as-I-am shrug, he made a reference to his much-mocked campaign logo, Jeb!, which notably avoids his famous last name.
“I’m Jeb. Exclamation point,” he said with a chuckle. “What can I tell ya?”
More broadly, Bush told the mixture of supporters and the curious that he brings a “servant’s heart” and a “proven, consistent, conservative record” to the campaign.
That attitude, he said, provides the only path to fight Washington gridlock.
“We have to get back to a grown-up world where you don’t assume (political opponents) are bad,” he said. “I won’t spend the first three years of my presidency blowing up my predecessor and assuming people on the other side are bad. … You have to have a servant’s heart to forge a consensus.”
Another voter then asked if he would give that same benefit of the doubt in a general election to, say, Hillary Clinton. Bush found it less easy to be generous to a specific potential opponent than he’d just been talking about more generically.
“With Hillary, it’s a little tougher,” Bush said.
Yes, he said, Clinton is smart, well-informed and sincere about her views on policy.
“(But) as it relates to honesty and trustworthiness,” Bush said, “she’s got a long way to go.”