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OpinionColumnistsLane Filler

Jeb Bush had a pretty good day at the Iowa State Fair

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb

Republican presidential hopeful and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, right, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad eat a pork chop on a stick at the Iowa Pork Tent during the Iowa State Fair on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. Presidential candidates are addressing attendees at the Iowa State Fair on the Des Moines Register Presidential Soapbox stage. The State Fair runs through Aug. 23. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

DES MOINES, IOWA - Speaking at the Iowa State Fair, former Gov. Jeb Bush was taking part in two traditions of presidential politics.
The first is the 20-minute speech at the Des Moines Register's Presidential Soapbox, where White House hopefuls address Iowans.  The second, and seemingly far less enjoyable one, is being a presumptive GOP nominee who isn't inspiring any love among many of the Republican faithful.
But his most charming and human moment at the fair came earlier when a fan in the crowd informed him that niece, Jenna Bush Hager, had just given birth to her second child. She named the girl Poppy - the Bush family name for patriarch George Herbert Walker Bush.
Ever a Bush, Jeb beamed and proceeded to congratulate his niece, her husband, his brother and father and basically all Bushes and Hagers everywhere.
At this point in the 2012 race, former Gov. Mitt Romney also had raised a lot of money and was the likely standard-bearer not many were excited about. So the voters had ill-considered flings with Rep. Michele Bachmann, former pizza-chain chief executive Herman Cain, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Rick Santorum before they settled on dependable, old Mitt.
At this point in the 2008 race, Sen. John McCain had blown through his campaign money, was amid a campaign firing-and-hiring spree and had every Republican who had held office higher than county clerk considering a presidential run. Who can forget the movement to draft former Sen. Fred Thompson? Okay, everyone can forget it.
So Bush showed up in Des Moines with $100 million in campaign funds in the bank, the right last name (unless the family name is what sinks his candidacy) and the right track record. But his national, Iowa and New Hampshire poll numbers are stuck in a rut between dismal and uninspiring. And billionaire developer Donald Trump, who has created a campaign that seems to be as much commentary on the state of American politics as an actual White House run, is scheduled to hit the fair Saturday.
Faced with all that, Jeb Bush had a pretty good day. The former Florida governor has been better at both delivering prepared speeches and mingling with crowds than he has been at answering debate questions or taking a peppering from journalists. His essential message on Friday was: "I am not crazy. I held an important and responsible elective position, successfully. I swear I'm an actual conservative. And I have enough backbone to stand up for my stances on issues, like Common Core educational standards and sincerely caring acts toward undocumented immigrants, that may anger you."
Insiders seem to believe, as they did with Romney and McCain and George W. Bush in 2000, that in the end the GOP "whose turn is it next" ethos and the overwhelming money in line for Jeb will get him the nod. That's likely, but not certain. The GOP most recently lost to Obama twice on that principle, and the grass-roots folks hated it, and blamed the establishment Republicans for it.
Jeb emanates decency. As much as his size masks the fact, he is in personality and intellect a lot more like his dad than his brother. George Herbert Walker Bush was a very good president, and history has borne that out more and more.
But I don't think Poppy could win the GOP nomination if he were running today. And I'm not sure his kid can, either.


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