By Max Greenwood
CARROLL, Iowa — For many, Jeb Bush’s presidential run was supposed to be a sure win: he is the son and brother of former U.S. presidents, he excelled in fundraising and he is an experienced politician.
But the former Florida governor has long lagged in polls. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll earlier this month put Bush at just 4 percent in Iowa, trailing even lesser-known candidates, such as Ben Carson, and falling far behind Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. And as Iowans prepared to go to the polls Monday to cast the first votes of the 2016 election season, Bush’s fate in the race remained unclear.
Many Iowa Republicans, however, have stood behind Bush in spite of sinking polling numbers, including David Richardson, 54, who attended a rally in Carroll, Iowa for Bush on Friday. For Richardson, it was his first time attending such a political event, but he said he wanted to show his support.
“The numbers aren’t looking good for him right now, but that’s why I thought I should actually come out here,” Richardson said. “I’m not a real political guy, but I voted for both Bushes before, and I want to vote for another.”
As Trump and Cruz continue to rise in state and national polls, Richardson views Bush as a solid choice in a Republican field that he sees as dominated by loud voices and outlandish statements.
Richardson isn’t alone in his support for Bush. At the same rally, Louise Fredericksen said she believes Bush has put forth the most realistic platform among GOP presidential hopefuls.
“He was the governor of Florida, so he already knows how to be in an executive position, and he did a good job there,” she said. “Running for president is more than just saying things that people want to here. You need to get down to the actual meat of the job, and that’s what Jeb does.”
The former Florida governor, 62, has raised more money than any candidate in the race, totaling more than $133 million. But the massive funds haven’t guaranteed a lead for Bush, who has been criticized as being unenthusiastic and lacking energy since launching his campaign last June.
What’s more, Bush has now found himself in the middle of a duel with other Republican establishment candidates, including his former protégé Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. At the GOP presidential debate in Des Moines Thursday, Bush attacked Rubio for reversing his position on immigration reform.
Standing outside a Donald Trump rally in Des Moines on Thursday night, Don Isaacs said he will not support Trump, but has not yet decided between Rubio and Bush. As the two candidates vie for more traditional Republican votes, however, their attacks on one another have worried Isaacs.
“I don’t want to see them fall into what Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have fallen into,” he said. “They’re all Republicans. They should be going after the Democrats, not each other.”
Isaacs said he viewed Bush as reliable, adding that he would “probably” back him in the election.
“He’s a good man, I can tell that,” Isaacs said. “He may not be yelling, he’s not angry, but I think a president should be level-headed; a little more thoughtful.”