Republican Jeb Bush couldn't fully escape questions about his family's political legacy as he spoke from the Iowa State Fair's political soapbox on Friday.
The former Florida governor took several heated foreign policy questions as he spoke before hundreds gathered around the soapbox hosted by The Des Moines Register newspaper.
He pushed back against an audience member who noted Bush's brother, former President George W. Bush, signed the deal requiring U.S. that forces exit Iraq by 2011, arguing that the plans could have been modified. Bush recently rolled out a strategy to fight the Islamic State, blaming the rise of the militant group on the troop departure in 2011.
"Everybody in Iraq and everybody in Washington knew this deal could have been expanded," Bush said. "Now we need to do something else, which is to deal with the fact that we have Islamic terrorists organized as a caliphate," Bush said.
Asked if he was taking advice from Paul Wolfowitz — a senior Defense Department official under both brother and his father, George H.W. Bush — Bush said Wolfowitz was providing some advice but that most policy guidance came from a team in Miami. He noted that when it comes to advisers, anyone with executive experience would have dealt with one of the Bush administrations.
"This is kind of a tough game for me to be playing, to be honest with you," Bush said. "I'm my own person."
Bush stressed his executive experience and said he supports education standards created by states. He also gave out an email address to the crowd and pledged to be a president who would find bipartisan consensus on issues, though he took a swipe at Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"I campaign the way that I would govern, out amongst everybody, no rope lines," Bush said, referring to an effort by her campaign to separate Clinton from reporters by using a rope line at a July 4 parade. "The next president is going to have to unite this country."
Bush also strolled the parade grounds with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst. The Iowa officials haven't endorsed a candidate, but their appearances showed Bush's potential strengths in the party.
Asked if he was "all-in" for the leadoff caucus state, the former Florida governor stressed that he would be "competitive." Recent polls indicate the former Florida governor is struggling in Iowa, but Bush said many voters are still looking at the field. Bush said his father was an "asterisk" at this stage of the 1980 race.
He sampled a deep fried candy bar, flipped pork tenderloin on a grill and chatted with voters while trailed by a massive throng of journalists. As he walked among the booths selling deep fried funnel cakes, corn dogs and pork chops, one man asked about his father's health.
"My dad's recovering, and my mom's the best caregiver in the world," Bush said.
After downing a beer on the sweltering morning, Bush sat down at a table at the fair's beer tent and chatted with Chris McLinden, a Dallas County Republican who recently agreed to head up Bush's efforts in the key GOP county.
McLinden said later he didn't think Bush's last name would be a liability and that Iowa voters would come to know him.
"That's a really bad reason not to vote for him," McLinden said. "He's his own person."
Billionaire Donald Trump, who has been leading in polls, plans to visit the fair Saturday.