DES MOINES -- Jeb Bush isn't spending the night of the Iowa caucuses in Iowa. He's jetting off to New Hampshire, where he has a better shot at a decent electoral result.
But that didn't stop him from campaigning first in Iowa's capital Tuesday, holding a rally of several hundred people in downtown Des Moines.
"I hope that I can persuade you to go tonight to caucus for me," he said.
Without naming any of his Republican presidential rivals, Bush made a dig at Marco Rubio, criticizing candidates like President Barack Obama, whom he called a good speaker unprepared for the White House.
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"The president shouldn’t have been a surprise to the American people, because what was in the background of this gifted orator that would lead you to believe he could actually make a tough decision?" he said. "There was nothing."
"I hope we've learned from that lesson," Bush said.
And he referred to Donald Trump, asking voters to look past the front-runner's bluster.
"Here's my confession: I know what I don't know, and good leaders know what they don't know," he said. "You want a president that thinks he's got it all figured out all the time, just a big blowhard that says he's going to do this or that? Or do you want someone that can develop a strategy to keep us safe?"
"We have candidates running where it's all about them," he concluded.
In the audience was a group of Bush alumni -- volunteers from past campaigns -- including state Rep. Bill Hager and Miamians Helen Aguirre Ferré, Jesse Manzano-Plaza and Tom Martinelli.
Standing in the back of the Embassy Suites hotel ballroom was David Kochel, Bush's Iowa strategist, who said the former Florida governor campaigned hard in Iowa even though the states social conservatives are not a natural fit for him politically.
"Gov. Bush said we're going to campaign everywhere, and we're doing it," he said. "It is a challenge for mainstream candidates but, you know, we're working hard and then we head to New Hampshire.
"I think we're going to do better than people expect" in Iowa, Kochel continued. "New Hampshire will have a big impact, and Gov. Bush is in a strong position there."
Bush nevertheless had local devotees.
"I love the Bush family," said 77-year-old Glenn Peterson of West Des Moines. "He's an honest, kind gentleman with knowledge, and he did a great, great job for the state of Florida."