Gov. Branstad: Jeb Bush has 'enviable' record, would be 'formidable' 2016 candidate

Other fundraisers scheduled for Branstad with Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Rick Perry

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on February 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Michael Fiala)
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on February 6, 2014. (REUTERS/Michael Fiala)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Gov. Terry Branstad didn’t endorse Jeb Bush for president, but he endorsed the former Florida governor’s record and predicted he would be a “formidable” candidate if he runs in 2016.

Fresh off a May 22 Coral Gables fundraiser with the brother of President George W. Bush, Branstad said Bush “may be thinking about” running for president in 2016.

“He’s in great shape. He’s in good humor,” Branstad said, but Bush didn’t specifically talk about seeking the presidency.

“We talked more about my race and in his interest in helping me,” Branstad said.

In fundraising for Branstad, Bush joins other Republican governors and former governors who are seen as possible 2016 GOP nominees. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has helped Branstad raise money for his campaign for a sixth term. The Iowa governor has fundraisers scheduled with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Hosting a fundraiser for the governor of Iowa is seen by many political observers as a sign Bush is laying the groundwork for a precinct caucus campaign in the first-in-the-nation state.

Bush, 61, has said he will decide later this year whether the will run.

If he runs, Branstad said, Bush has an impressive record of turning around Florida’s low-performing schools and making the Sunshine State’s tax climate more welcoming to business and job creation.

“People from Florida were telling me he improved Florida’s education system dramatically,” Branstad said. “They used to be near the bottom and now their fourth-grade reading scores are better than ours in Iowa. I take that as a challenge that we need to improve.”

Bush also made “dramatic improvements in reducing the burden for business and attracting business and jobs,” Branstad added.

So, if Bush seeks the GOP nomination, “he’s got a very enviable record,” Branstad said.

A recent Public Policy Polling poll found Bush trails 2008 Iowa precinct caucus winner Mike Huckabee (20 percent) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (15 percent) with support from 12 percent of the 303 Republican primary voters polled May 15-19.

Bush was seen favorable by 48 percent of those polled; unfavorably by 25 percent.

A mid-April Loras College Poll of 600 GOP likely primary voters found Bush trailing Huckabee 15 percent to 11 percent, but ahead of Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Christie who polled 8.5, 8.3 and 8 percent, respectively.