The Corner

Politics & Policy

In Final Push, Jeb Bush Deploys Veterans Coalition Into Iowa

In one last push to claim the so-called establishment lane in Iowa, Jeb Bush is deploying prominent veterans to campaign for him across the state, according to two Bush advisors.

Today, the advisors say, Bush will announce endorsements from 12 retired flag officers, adding to what remains the largest coalition of veteran supporters in the 2016 field. Those officers include General Keith Alexander, Lieutenant General John Blount, and Lieutenant General Ron Dardis, who hails from the Hawkeye State.

That coalition will attempt to secure Bush a finish ahead of fellow establishment contenders Chris Christie and John Kasich in the caucuses on Monday, and give him a slight tailwind as the race moves to New Hampshire. Medal of Honor recipients Major General Jim Livingston, Colonel Leo Thorsness, and Sergeant Leroy Petry will join Bush in his final swing through the state this week. And Illinois congressman and Iraq war veteran Adam Kinzinger, one of the former Florida governor’s earliest endorsers, will campaign alongside him at tonight’s debate in Des Moines, before joining him at events on Friday and Saturday.

A handful of the retired flag officers will speak on Bush’s behalf in caucus locations across the state. His advisors won’t specify which locations the officers will cover, but say that they will be in places with a “heavy” concentration of “military and vets programs.”

“It’s an interesting dynamic when you have a guy like General [John] Jumper, a guy who sat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a caucus location just like anyone else, standing up making a pitch for Jeb,” says one Bush staffer.

The colorful set of backers could give an added edge to Bush’s national-security pitch, affording him a second look in a policy realm currently dominated by sound-bite–heavy pledges to “bomb the hell out of ISIS” and “carpet bomb” the Middle East. Bush is one of the few candidates to outline a detailed plan to defeat ISIS — he proposes a US-led global coalition engaged with the Kurds and Sunni tribal leaders — and his surrogates have faithfully touted it at events. The strategy has met with some visible success thus far: In a recent Milford, New Hampshire town hall, Thorsness seemed to draw more fanfare than even Bush himself.

Perhaps more than most candidates, Bush stands to benefit from well-regarded surrogates, especially in light of his underwater favorability ratings in Iowa. Whether prominent veteran surrogates can actually help Bush emerge from the establishment scrum in Iowa on a path to greater success in New Hampshire, however, remains to be seen.

Among likely GOP caucus-goers in Iowa, the latest NBC/WSJ/Marist poll shows Donald Trump leading the pack at 32%, followed by Ted Cruz at 25% and Marco Rubio at 18%. Bush sits in fifth place, with only 4% support.

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