Jeb Bush team bullish on Iowa

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When Jeb Bush announced this year that he wouldn’t participate in the Iowa Straw poll in August, it was immediately viewed by some pundits as the equivalent of the Bush campaign pulling out the white flag, essentially giving up on the socially conservative state.

In retrospect, his pullout was ahead of the curve in other Republicans bailing out on the event, which was officially canceled a few weeks later. And according to the latest polls, Bush is competitive in the Hawkeye State.

Leading his campaign in Iowa is Annie Kelly, who was working with Bush’s Right to Rise Pac before she was placed in charge of Iowa. In 2011, she was deputy state director for Tim Pawlenty’s Iowa campaign, and then managed then-U.S. Rep. Tom Latham’s successful Iowa re-election campaign.

“We are 27 weeks out of the caucuses. We’re in full campaign swing out here,” Kelly told Bush donors on a nationwide conference call on Monday afternoon. With as many as 17 candidates to be on the ballot when Iowans caucus on Feb. 1, Kelly predicted that the winning candidate is likely to need only to get to 17 or 18 percent to be successful – or a total of 23,000 votes.

“The difference between first and third place could be a couple of hundred (votes),” Kelly said. “I say that to emphasize that the stakes are very high here – media coverage all is really driven by the performance in Iowa.”

With 99 counties in Iowa and 1,774 precincts in the state, Kelley said it was crucial to captains in everyone of those precincts. She called that a “big ask,” saying that person isn’t being asked to show up at a precinct on caucus night to show support, but also must attend at least one training session, and prepare to give a public speech in front of all of their neighbors.

An NBC News/Marist poll released over the weekend shows Scott Walker in the lead in Iowa with 19 points, Donald Trump second with 17 points, and Bush third at 12 percent.

Kelly concluded by saying that the job of the organizers in Iowa was to build a “high floor,” with the candidate and his communications team in charge of the ceiling.

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